Friday, March 6, 2015

Book Thoughts: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the TrainThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A tiding of magpies. One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret never to be told. I’ve got a few of those.



3.5 stars. Not really spoilerish (but YMMV), but certainly long.

The girl on the train is alcoholic divorcee Rachel Watson. She commutes on the train everyday, except the weekends, to the city. She shares an apartment with an old acquaintance who worries after her due to her drinking problem. During her train trips, Rachel passes a former neighborhood of hers where her old home is visible from tracks. However, memories of her home cause her great pain, so she focuses on a residence a few houses down from her old home where a young couple resides. She spends a great deal of time making up a life for "Jess and Jason," as she calls them, a life that betrays what she once had. They're the perfect couple in her mind until one day she spies Jess kissing another man and later that day "Jess" ends up missing.

This book is written from the point-of-view of three women, Rachael Watson, Anna Watson, Rachel's ex-husband's new wife, and Megan Hipwell, the married young woman that Rachel calls "Jess" who turns up missing. Each woman has their issues that lend the story that unreliable narrator feel that so many books are going for these days. Readers try to sort through what's real and what's imagined as told by an alcoholic who has blackouts, an unapologetic cheater-turned-obsessive mom who has a self-serving canted view of things to suit her, and a woman with so much emotional baggage it boggles the mind how she's stayed sane for so long.

Making Rachel something of the hero of this story was different. She's certainly not an ideal hero, and her heroism is tempered by her own self-serving needs. However, much of the story rests on her, and she's not some mild-to-moderately attractive woman who's just a little down on her luck. No, she's a debilitating alcoholic who often spirals into the abyss and does things she can't remember. Her appearance, her mental health, her personal and professional relationships, her whole life has been affected by her alcoholism. She's flaky and has a penchant for lying without understanding why she does it. (Well, she does know why she does it, but she refuses to face the issue.) Megan's disappearance, however, adds meaning to her life in a strange way.

Megan's side of things serve to show us what type of person she really is, what type of person her husband really is, outside of Rachel's and Anna's (but especially Rachel's) limited view of her. While some of Rachel's fanciful musing on Megan and her husband actually do describe them, you find that Megan is far more troubled than Rachel can begin to understand. Megan's side of things also gives readers doubts and much to consider about the things leading up to her disappearance. It makes you question Rachel's version of the story quite a bit, even the parts the readers think are true.

Anna is one of my complaints. I never felt her parts were that significant. This was disappointing considering she was supposed to cast a different light on Rachel and her behavior while serving to point out some other strange details in the story. It felt so shallow, she felt so shallow, for most of the book, though, and then, when her POV became significant toward the end of the book, I starting feeling like these things should've been weaved into the story more instead of adding all the weight near the end.

The ending, while certainly not surprising, felt a bit rushed. Everything started happening all at one time instead of things carefully unfolding until the reader thinks "Aha!", and a few major coincidences occurred so rapidly in tandem to bring about its dramatic conclusion. There were some weakness as to the motivations and character revelations that left me dissatisfied.

The narration of this book was beautifully done by Clare Corbett (Rachel), Louise Brealey (Megan), and India Fisher (Anna). They prove through their strong narration that this book was made to be read. It feels more like a radio drama production rather meant for that purpose. I'm usually doing something else while I'm listening to audiobooks, but there were so many moments where I just stopped doing whatever it was I was doing completely to just listen to the story. That rarely happens to me.

This book has been compared to Gone Girl for its voice. I'm one of the last people on earth who hasn't read or watched Gone Girl, so I can't make any comparisons to it. However, I can say that this certainly has "Made for Movie" all over it, and it'd likely be a movie that made viewers hold their breaths in anticipation if done right. This is a riveting story that's hard to put down. The only reason I didn't finish it in one sitting is because I started reading it late one evening and had to rest for work the next morning.

Hawkins' writing style is lyrical, haunting even, without making the story drag. I appreciated that she used these three troubled women to tell the story rather than trying to give it to us from some rational mind who would've long stopped this madness long before things got interesting. There were so many moments when I wanted to yell at these characters to get it together. There were moments when I felt like I was sinking under their emotional turmoil. That's important. That means I'm invested in the story. Despite any complaints that I had with the story, it was a fine showing.

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Book Thoughts: Wreckage by Emily Bleeker

WreckageWreckage by Emily Bleeker
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

TL;DR Version:

2.5 stars. Ugh.



Long Version:

Wreckage revolves around two survivors of a plane crash, Lillian and Dave, who'd spent two years trapped on a deserted island together. Both are married, and Lillian has two boys. Lillian's mother-in-law, Margaret, wins a trip for two to Fiji thanks to a contest ran by a yogurt company. After a week of VIP treatment, the company sends out a private jet to take the two women to the company's private island. The airplane is manned by a pilot and a stewardess, Kent and Theresa respectively. The company also sends Dave, a representative of the company.

When the plane loses an engine and gets caught in a storm (I know, I know), it goes down. Theresa and Margaret are the only ones fortunate enough to bail out of this story early, leaving Lillian, Dave, and Kent to fend for themselves. However, this story doesn't follow them from that point. This book begins some time after they've been rescued. Lillian has agreed to do one exclusive interview so that she can tell her "necessary lies" and be done with the whole thing, only she requires Dave to get in on this fiasco for whatever reason (and I never figure out why he had to factor in). The book shifts between the interviews and scenes on the island.

This book started out promising, even as I joked, "Is this going to be like that Guy Ritchie and Madonna movie?" Looking at some of the other reviews for this book that thought terrible things like cannibalism would come into play while reading this, I wished I'd been more creative with my question. I will admit that I initially picked it up because I was hoping that I was going to get something like The Woman Who Wasn't There (a documentary about a woman who faked being a 911 survivor for many years). The more I got into the story, the more dissatisfied I became with it.

My main problem with this book is the whole idea it's based on. Why did Lillian and David feel the need to make up such a complex story? You were stranded on an island. You didn't think you were coming home. No one thought you were alive. While hurtful, no one can blame you for whatever happened there in such a stressful situation. I get there are things that happened on that island that would hurt their partners. Just tell the truth so people can heal and move on.

I'm not so much annoyed that they chose to lie, but what they chose to lie about and the types of lies they chose to tell. Some of these lies, like Kent's death (and Kent only served to be the mustache twirling villain who knew exactly how to survive on a deserted island making him feel necessary to the two), weren't even worth the effort to lie about. If you feel you have to lie, why would you unnecessarily complicate your story with excess lies? Not only that, one of the lies you told was perhaps the easiest to debunk because of the wonders of modern medicine, and it was debunked because of the wonders of modern medicine.

The dialogue was so trite. It just didn't feel like things that people would say to each other. I could see this dialogue being in one of those old 80s young adult books I used to read, just real shallow, banal quality for the most part. I found myself unintentionally frowning up at most of it. Some of these other points of contention, I'm not even going to comment on because I'll never stop talking about it, such as Paul. Insert ominous music here.

Two-thirds of the way into this book, it just fell apart completely as the romance plot completely took over. Two attractive, married people (though they don't think of themselves as attractive, but the writing proves that this just isn't so) on a beach alone together after the villain's demise... what else is there to do? Apparently, have the book lose its shit altogether from that moment to the ending.

The ending wrapped everything up so neatly. They all lived happily ever after. The truth came out to the ones that mattered despite all the lies, and everyone is okay and they're all one big happy family. Literally. I don't have anything against HEA endings, but this just didn't fit the context of the story. However, considering how the book just fell apart and the general shaky premise, maybe it did fit the book.

After I finished reading it, I was so disappointed. It wasn't a badly written book, which is why I can't rate it lower than 2 stars. The story is actually intriguing in parts, and the concept of the story itself isn't bad just not executed well. I also think that she mostly got it right with media feeling entitled to every piece of a story, as if their opinions are the ones that really matter. (I still found the woman doing the interview to be a bit of a caricature of the ambitious reporter herself.) I think I'm more perplexed at how such a promising start could go so absolutely wrong.

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2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Tiara has read 6 books toward her goal of 52 books.
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Tiara's bookshelf: currently-reading

The Elfstones Of Shannara
tagged: upcoming-reads, currently-reading, 2016-audiobook-challenge, classi...
Gardens of the Moon
tagged: currently-reading, fantasy, z-narrator-ralph-lister, 2016-audiobook...

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Tiara's bookshelf: read

Deceived
really liked it
Review to come.
tagged: 2016-star-wars-reading-challenge and 2016-audiobook-challenge
The Girl from the Well
liked it
More reviews @ The Bibliosanctum TL;DR Review 2.5 to 3 stars. Not badly written… I’m just disappointed by the squandered potential. I’m going to reread Anna Dressed in Blood to make myself feel better about this Longer Review: T...
tagged: 2016-women-of-genre-fiction-reading, horror, and young-adult
Thirteen Reasons Why
I don't think this quite captures the complexity of bullying and suicide, and some of the issues that Hannah started facing toward the end of the novel really seemed to detract even more from the feelings she was going through by having ...
tagged: young-adult, popsugar-2016-reading-challenge, 2016-audiobook-challe...
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
liked it
Spoiler free review to come.
tagged: 2016-star-wars-reading-challenge
The Phantom of the Opera
really liked it
tagged: classic-horror, classics, audiobook, 2016-audiobook-challenge, horr...

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