Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Girl on the Train

Title: The Girl on the Train
Author: Paula Hawkins
Published: January 13th 2015 by Riverhead Books
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Genre: Thriller

To be honest, you are not going to like any of the characters. There is not one of them that you would invite over for dinner. That does not mean that their story is not captivating. You will be subjected to an unreliable narrator who drinks too much and has an obsession with her ex-husband. His new wife who is adding fuel to the crazy fire and a husband and wife a few houses down that started this whole mess.

Lying about losing her job, Rachael Watson take the train each day to an imaginary job, when the train hits a crossing she looks up, every day the same thing, to see the row of homes that she used to live in. Her ex-husband is now occupying their old home with his new wife and child and a few houses down on the end is a couple that she had never met, but has decided to create her own running synopsis of their lives. Each day seeing little snippets until the ominous moment she opens the paper and sees the woman’s face starting back at her. Now missing, this woman that she has called Jess, whose real name is Megan disappeared on the very day that Rachael cannot account for her time due to an alcoholic blackout and now Rachael is determined to put all of her pieces back together. Maybe in doing so, she will be able to explain the bumps and scratches that she woke up with the morning after.

From time to time, Rachael would get off at this station, the one where her husband and the unknown couple lived; she would stalk and snoop, and on occasion make herself a real nuisance. She was obsessed with both the life that her ex-husband had created without her and with what she thought was the perfect life that the couple (Megan and Scott) on the corner had. To Rachael, Megan and Scott had it all, that is until she saw Megan with another man and something in Rachael unraveled.

It is a little complicated and a little twisty, but Paula Hawkins was able to give each character their own voice without confusing the reader as to whom was speaking.

Thus begins a Hitchcock’ian thriller. Who are all these people? Rachael’s internal narrative is trying to put the pieces together but she cannot recall all the parts and the parts that she does remember, do not blend with what her ex-husband has been telling her. If she could only stop drinking and remember. Why is she so afraid of the red haired man on the train? Does he have something to do with this?

I loved this book; Rachael sprinkled enough truths and uncertainties to have me wondering if I had missed something. The ending is phenomenal. Maybe you will be able to put it all together before I did, since each character had the prescribed motive, means and opportunity, for me it was still a guessing game to the end.

If you are looking for a nice neat “I could have told you who the killer was in the first chapter” type of book, you will not like this one. If you are looking for a book that will keep you guessing and running down rabbit holes with the narrator, then this is the book for you.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Murder of Magpies

Title: Murder of Magpies
Author: Judith Flanders
Publishing: February 24th 2015 by Minotaur Books
Format: ARC eBook; Hardcover Pgs 288
Genre: Mystery
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Monitaur for an opportunity to read an advance copy of this book.

Am I the only person that hopes that this will become a series?

Other than the complete confusion I had with the money-laundering scheme, I really enjoyed Samantha Clair as a lead character. There was something refreshing and endearing when a character in an “almost” cozy mystery uses her brain and not just her love interest to help her solve a mystery.

Book editor Samantha Clair is in a difficult position when her bestselling author submits a book that is almost too awful to print. She will have to put that on the proverbial backburner when she plans a meeting with another author whose new book proposal offers tantalizing gossip within the fashion industry.

There are people that do not want this scandalous book published so when both the manuscript and author disappear Police Inspector Jake Field shows up at the publishing house wanting Sam to answer a couple of questions. Of course, the inspector is handsome and Samantha is curious, but that is not going to get in the way of Sam finding her friend and answering quite a few questions of her own. Most pressing of which is -who exactly is that man living in the apartment above her.

There are many great characters in this book – namely her mother Helena that Samantha is convinced is a Martian or other life form since the woman seems to have supernatural powers and survives on very little sleep. Helena is hysterical throughout the book and most definitely keeps Sam on her toes.

I would not say that the plot was “un-put-down-able” but I would say that the characters kept me coming back and I hope that Ms. Flanders has more shenanigans with this group in the works.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Girls From Corona Del Mar

Title: The Girls from Corona Del Mar
Author: Rufi Thorpe
Narrator: Rebecca Lowman
Published: July 8th 2014 by Knopf
Format: Audio; Hardcover, 256 pages
Genre: Fiction

I can probably agree with every negative review that I have read about this book, but at the same time, I think it is one of the best books that I have read. That is how diverse and troubling this book was for me.

This book is dark. It touches on difficult subject matters. At times, neither of the two main characters are very likeable, but yet, I was drawn to the broken characters that each were.

Starting this book in paper form, I was ready to put it down and agree with all the negative comments. Taking a chance, I switched to the audio and Rebecca Lowman made the characters and the time come alive. The story took a real turn for me and since I grew up in the Orange County area, the places were as real to me as they were to Mia and Lorrie Ann.

No one can hurt you as much as a friend and Mia found that out the hard way when Lorrie Ann, a girl that Mia had loved and idolized makes choices that twist their friendship to a point that neither will recover from.

I am not a fan of the term “coming of age”, so I will just refer to this book as watching two 15 years olds reaching adulthood while making life choices that lead each down their own path and the reader is left to watch the decisions and the self-destruction along the way.

To me, what was most curious about this book was the role reversal that took place. Like Mia, I was expecting more from Lorrie Ann after the birth of her son, but she seemed to have given up and was no longer the enviable person that Mia had always placed on a pedestal. You no longer felt sympathy for her and wondered how Mia kept looking for the good.

Told over a twenty year time period and intertwined with the Sumerian legend of Inanna, you see their friendship for what it was and what it was not. Two girls that in a way were thrown together, one good one bad and in the end neither hold their long established positions.

They each had to walk away. They knew too much about the other. They knew how to hurt in a way that there was no coming back from. Mia had to give up on the myth that she had created about her friend and Lorrie Ann needed to be the person that no longer had to live up to the expectations that had been placed on her.

There are many layers to this book and I had to step back from time to time and try to gain a different perspective. I, like Mia, kept wanting to justify Lorrie Ann’s actions, but in the end neither of us could come to terms with the person that she had become. Neither of us wanted to give up but there was no other choice.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Doctor Death

Title: Doctor Death
Author: Lene Kaaberbol
Published: February 17th 2015 by Atria Books
Format: ARC eBook; Hardcover, 304 pages
Genre: Fiction
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Atria Books for the opportunity to read an advance copy of this book
Series: Madeleine Karno #1

Lene Kaaberbol has a way of taking on a book and twisting it into a darker place. Leaving the reader wondering if they love it or should they be ashamed that they loved it. Either way, this is an intense book that keeps the reader fully engaged.

In the late 1800’s women had their place, unfortunately, that is not the place that Madeleine Karno wanted to be. She wanted to work with her father, a noted pathologist; she wanted to perform autopsies and get into what is now referred to as forensics. Her own father was having a hard time battling the norms of the day, so Madeleine knew that the road to her dreams was going to be a hard upward climb.

Scandals come to the forefront when seventeen-year-old Cecile Montaine is found dead. Thought to be a runaway, her body is found on the front steps of her family’s home. Cecile’s father refuses the new science of autopsy so Madeleine and her father are left with only the parasites in the girl’s nostrils that are most commonly found in dogs. Ok, so maybe there was a secret autopsy, but it was very discreet.

This is where the story takes multiple dark turns leading to a convent with an abbess that is not telling all that she knows, a boy that was raised in the wild, a priest that is found dead, and the father of Cecile attempting suicide.

The characters are well drawn and each seems to be hiding their own secrets with stunning conclusions that are not fully revealed until the last pages. Culminating in an unexpected surprise that leaves Madeline with the ability to lead the life that she has always wanted if she is willing to handle one fact that her new fiancé has revealed to her.

I was very apprehensive when I picked up this book. I had loved Ms Kaaberbol’s prior book, the Boy in the Suitcase from the Nina Borg series, but the latter two in that trio were a letdown. Now that she has written a book separate from her writing partner, I see in this book, the writing that had drawn me to her first Nina Borg novel.

This book is on the darker side and might be construed as offensive to some, but I could not tear my eyes away. Madeline and the way that she handled the murkier parts of humanity mesmerized me. There was no judgment from her, just a curiosity and the realization that she needed to look at the world from a scientist point of view and not the limited views that made those around her feel comfortable.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Golden State

Title: Golden State
Author: Stephanie Kegan
Will be Published: February 17th 2015 by Simon & Schuster
Format: ARC eBook; Hardcover, 300 pages
Genre: Fiction
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Simon and Schuster for the opportunity to read an advance copy of this book.

I did not want to read the last couple of pages of this book. I did not want to witness the choices that Natalie had to make. I did not want to watch a family crumble. I wanted to live in my own make believe world of happily ever after. There is no happy when a man is on trial for being a bomber that has killed seven and maimed others. A man that has been a victim of mental illness since he was seventeen years old and a family that has chosen to look the other way until there is no other way to look.

Natalie Askedahl has always looked up to her older brother. He was her knight in shining armor who taught her all the things that brothers can bestow on their younger siblings. He was the golden child of a prominent California political family. To the Askedahl children, they had an ideal childhood – a life of privilege and parents that did not pay attention to them.

Sara, her older sister had so much to offer but decided to turn her back on it so she would not make her brother look bad. Natalie was the perfect wife and mother who never rocked the boat. Then Bobby, their genius older brother who aced his SAT’s and was accepted at Princeton. Only in the Askedahl family would this be considered a failure since they were Berkley people through and through.

The most recent terrorist bombing on the campus of Stanford University hits too close to home for Natalie as her oldest daughter was there in a debating tournament as the bomb was exploding. Natalie, at her sister’s suggestion, reads the Cal Bomber’s manifesto. Remembering the last letter that Bobby had written to their mother, something about the wording was too familiar. Could the same person have written the two documents? Her blood ran cold. Gathering up the papers, she shares them with her husband and thus begs the nightmare that has overtaken her life.

Saying that this book is like watching a train wreck is oversimplifying. It is more along the lines of watching each car plunge slowly off the tracks, rolling down a steep hill and not knowing who or what will be caught up in the destruction.

Though paralleling the actual UnaBomber case of the late 1990’s, the reader looks on from a family member’s perspective. The choices, the excuses and even the desperations are played out repeatedly as a family comes to terms with what they pretended not to see. This is a gripping and gut wrenching book. A book that leaves you emotionally battered as you live Natalie’s decisions and wonder if and how you would have done it differently.

Monday, February 2, 2015

No Ghouls Allowed

Title: No Ghouls Allowed
Author: Victoria Laurie
Published: January 6th 2015 by Signet
Format: Paperback, Pgs 352
Genre: Paranormal Mystery
Series: Ghost Hunters Mysteries #9

I have to applaud Ms. Laurie for acknowledging the comments that have been made in the past about comparing her Ghost Hunter’s series to Scooby Do. I had actually gone back and reread this paragraph in the book a couple of times just to cheer her on.

This particular series has been a roller coaster of sorts, some books a good, some not so much, but this book is excellent. This is not so much whininess or over the top immaturity. Each of the characters has settled down. There is a redundancy in wordage (piehole), but you can only change so much.

M.J. Holiday is on a hiatus from her Ghoul Getters ghost hunting show to take a long needed vacation back in Valdosta, Georgia. Her father, whom she has been estranged from, is now remarrying and M.J. is having mixed feelings. She still idolizes her deceased mother but Christine, the bride to be, is lovely and appears to be the perfect match for Montgomery Holiday.

With proceeds from Christine’s first husband, she has purchased a premier property in Valdosta - the Porter Manor. As renovations begin, accidents have begun and when the latest mishap takes place, M.J. and her crew are asked to enter the property and see what they do to help. Little did they know, but they are about to be confronted by their most challenging encounter yet.

I have hated Ouija boards ever since my early years so when one makes a profound presence in this book, my stomach actually twisted. When all is said and done, No Ghouls Allowed boils down to my evil spirit is worse than your evil spirit. The last couple of chapters were a bit twisty so you have to pay close attention as to how and who was responsible for the final outcome. That was a bit surprising since I had placed my bet on “the other guy”. Not to say that one person was worse than the other, since the whole Porter family was a bit damaged.

My final take – M.J. did a lot of growing up in this book. She learned a dark secret about her mother’s past, came to terms with her father and I think she has made a new friend in Christine.