Becky’s Two Hundred and Seventeenth Book Review: “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins

“The Girl on The Train” by Paula Hawkins was such a good read. I cannot believe it took me so long to get around to picking it up. Once I did open the first pages I could not put the book down. The characters are intense and the storyline is such a forceful pace that you need to keep turning those pages. It was an addictive read, I wouldn’t suggest it to anyone trying to get work done.

In “The Girl on the Train” the story is told from a few different perspectives. The main character, Rachel, sits on the train and stares out the window daydreaming. She is not on her way to work, but just riding the train to keep up appearances. Her life has fallen to pieces and she is faking it the best that she can. She continues to ride the train, and while staring out the window, she makes up stories for the different people that she sees. She likes to watch the row of houses that she used to be a part of. We soon learn that Rachel is divorced and that her husband left her for another woman and that they now have a child together. So Rachel stares at the neighbors that she might have had if things had turned out differently between her and her husband.

It soon becomes clear that Rachel is not the most stable individual. She gets very upset when she realizes that the picture perfect family she has been watching is anything but. “What is wrong with her? Look at the life they have, look at how beautiful it is! I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts. Who was it said that following your heart is a good thing? It is pure egotism, a selfishness to conquer all. Hatred floods me. If I saw that woman now, if I saw Jess, I would spit in her face. I would scratch her eyes out.” (The Girl on the Train, pg 31). The hateful passion that Rachel feels is so extreme compared to her relationship (or lack there of) with those she is directing her anger towards. She doesn’t really know them, and they certainly do not know her, but she has forced herself into their lives in her own mind to the point where she feels such anger.

Another woman that is narrating “The Girl on the Train” is Megan. We learn bits and pieces about her but from the very beginning it is clear that she is not happy. “Hollowness: that I understand. I’m starting to believe that there isn’t anything you can do to fix it. That’s what I’ve taken from the therapy sessions: the holes in your life are permanent. You have to grow around them, like tree roots around concrete, you mold yourself through the gaps. All these things I know, but I don’t say them out loud, not now.” (The Girl on the Train, pg 94). Megan is the one that Rachel watches and imagines her life to be perfect. Anna, the woman that Rachel’s husband left her for, also narrates “The Girl on the Train” and she seems like a pretty terrible person. “I miss being a mistress. / I enjoyed it. I loved it, in fact. I never felt guilty. I pretended I did. I had to, with my married girlfriends, the ones who live in terror of the pert au pair or the pretty, funny girl in the office who can talk about football and spends half her life in the gym. I had to tell them that of course I felt terrible about it, of course I felt bad for his wife, I never meant for any of this to happen, we fell in love, what could we do?” (The Girl on the Train, pg 233).

I really enjoyed reading the book from different perspectives. I like when an author lets you inside the minds of various characters. It provides the reader a fuller experience and keeps them guessing at the same time. It’s a great technique that I see frequently in the modern novel.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I think that a large audience would enjoy this novel. It is a little twisted at times, so it isn’t necessarily a book for everyone. There are a lot of comparisons to Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl” on reviews – which I understand. If you didn’t enjoy “Gone Girl” there is a fair chance that you wouldn’t enjoy “The Girl on the Train”. But I didn’t love “Gone Girl” and I couldn’t put “The Girl on the Train” down, it was such a page-turner. For me I found these characters to be overall more likeable, and therefore I was more interested in the book. I was pretty unhappy to find out that this is the only book Paula Hawkins has written so far. I’m hoping there will be more books to follow; I would definitely pick up more works by Paula Hawkins.

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Becky’s Two Hundred and Sixteenth Book Review: “The Death Cure” by James Dashner

“The Death Cure” by James Dashner is the third book in the Maze Runner series, and the conclusion to his tale. Dashner also wrote a fourth book that is a prequel, which I’ll be reading in the not too distant future.

At the conclusion of “The Scorch Trials” Thomas is separated from the rest of the group. When “The Death Cure” begins, he is still on his own and trying to hold onto his sanity. “He didn’t know why the stench of his own body was the thing that scared him the most. Perhaps that in itself was a sign that he’d lost it. But for some reason his deteriorating hygiene pushed against his mind, causing horrific thoughts. Like he was rotting, decomposing, his insides turning as rancid as his outside felt.” (The Death Cure, pg 2). Once Thomas finally gets out, he retains the suspicion that he had for Theresa. This builds and he truly trusts no one. In truth, I think that Thomas did lose it a bit when he was kept in isolation from everyone else. Who wouldn’t? But this small element of madness slipped through in the suspicions he felt towards everyone. “She turned and looked at Thomas. It was a look he knew so well – she expected him to side with her. But the difference was that now he was suspicious about why she wanted it so badly.” (The Death Cure, pg 30). That being said, there have definitely been elements to warrant his uncertainties about the world around him.

The Maze Runner series is set in a dystopian world, which is a rather popular theme nowadays. After the sun flares, which destroyed a large part of the world through natural means, a disease spread that made everything so much worse. What makes these books unique is the fact that the characters are part of a trial group in an attempt to fix everything, to find a cure. Things would never go all the way back to normal, but people would have a chance to rebuild a new society, one with a real future. That is the whole reasoning that WICKED has for putting these kids through everything they did. They want to find a cure for The Flare. As the characters learn what is real and what is part of the trials, loyalties are questioned and it is near impossible to know whom to trust. The constant uncertainty that the characters live in adds an extra element of excitement to the books. “Thomas didn’t say anything. He was barely able to breathe because of a strange anticipation, the simultaneous desires to know and not know.” (The Death Cure, pg 262).

Would I recommend this book? Yes and no. The writing improved over the course of the books, but it was nothing extraordinary. I think that overall the series is an entertaining read, but I’m not sure I will go back and read it again. It seems more like a borrow-from-the-library book than an own-and-reread book.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Fifteenth Book Review: “Echo Burning” by Lee Child

“Echo Burning” by Lee Child is the fifth book in the Jack Reacher series. My biggest problem with this one was the fact that it was based in Texas. The way that Lee Child described the horrible heat there – well I found myself relating a little too much to it even though I’m in the northeast. Reading “Echo Burning” made me feel physically hot.

At the beginning of “Echo Burning” Reacher finds himself wandering on the side of the highway in an attempt to duck out of a confrontation with some hot-headed cops. To his surprise, his hitchhiking in the Texas heat is successful when he is picked up by an attractive woman in a nice car. Once in the car, Reacher is fed a sob story. He learns that Carmen is a victim of domestic violence and that she wants his help to get away from her husband. When divulging all the details of the abuse that she has had to endure, Carmen makes it clear that she wants her husband out of the picture – permanently. Reacher refuses. “He paused a beat with his mouth halfway open. It was true. He would do it for Jodie Garber, but he wouldn’t do it for Carmen Greer. Why not? Because it comes in a rush. You can’t force it. It’s a hot-blooded thing, like a drug in your veins, and you go with it. If it’s not there, you can’t go with it. Simple as that. He’d gone with it before in his life, many times. People mess with him, they get what they get. They mess with Jodie, that’s the same thing as messing with him. Because Jodie was him. Or at least she used to be. In a way that Carmen wasn’t. And never would be. So it just wasn’t there.” (Echo Burning, pg 72). I really liked this passage. It so clearly defines the way that Reacher thinks and behaves. Although he refuses to kill her husband, Reacher does agree to stick around for a few days and help keep an eye on things. I don’t want to give too much away; I’ll just say that Reacher does find his presence to be necessary.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely – I would probably encourage readers to pick this one up in the middle of winter so you can use the overwhelming heat of the book to warm up. Unless I’m alone in the over-relating to the environment my books are set in? I can’t be the only one. Even if you don’t read this book for the heat, it is well worth picking up. I mentioned during my review of “Running Blind” that part of what I enjoy so much about the series is how as a character, Jack Reacher is continuously being developed. By the fifth book in the series, you feel like you know Reacher, but Lee Child keeps things interesting. Reacher is a great character and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Becky’s Two Hundred and Fourteenth Book Review: “Dogeaters” by Jessica Hagedorn

“Dogeaters” by Jessica Hagedorn was a Wall Street book club pick last year. It took me awhile to get through it and I was left with unclear feelings for the novel, hence the extreme delay in writing this review. Even now I’m struggling with what I really want to say about the book and the overall reading experience.

On the one hand, I think that Jessica Hagedorn has a very interesting writing style. The characters were so diverse from one another, and yet they all had something or other in common. I didn’t love the fact that the chapter titles did not reference which character was narrating; I found that to be confusing. I would get a few pages into a chapter and realize that it was a completely different character that was narrating from what I originally thought.

Maybe it is just because it took me such a long time to get through the book, or that I finished it so long ago and am only now writing the review, but I don’t really remember much about it. I remember not enjoying parts of it and then finding other aspects of the book very entertaining. I know that I didn’t like most of the characters in the novel – they were just bad people for the most part. I remember one of the characters killed a dog, and that never goes over well with me. I get extremely turned off from a novel when the dog is killed, especially in a violent manner.

Would I recommend this book? Probably not, I certainly would not pick it up again. I think that while it is something that would appeal to a certain type of reader, I’m not that person. I enjoy the fact that following the WSJ book club that I am branching out to books that I would otherwise never have picked up. That being said, I do not love all the book club picks and I wouldn’t pick up another work by Jessica Hagedorn.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Thirteenth Book Review: “The Fraud” by Brad Parks

“The Fraud” by Brad Parks is the sixth installment in the Carter Ross series. For me, this one started out a little on the slow side, and I was worried that Brad Parks had lost it, but within a few pages I was hooked as per usual and I even found myself all choked up with tears in my eyes and goose bumps down my arms.

SPOILER ALERT – DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU’RE NO UP TO DATE ON THE SERIES (unless you like to live dangerously…then by all means continue)

At the end of the last book “The Player” we learn that Carter Ross is going to be a daddy after a leg massage he gave Tina got a bit out of hand. In “The Fraud” Carter’s editor and baby mama is well into her third trimester and he is struggling with their relationship dynamic. “Since then, we have returned to our historic roles. I keep pressing for a committed relationship. She keeps putting me off. I realize this sort of makes me the girl in this whole scenario. Yet I’m secure in my manhood and have not let her hesitance deter me from thinking we’ll eventually be together. The way I see it, I beat out roughly thirty million other guys on the night I was conceived. I’ve had a winning attitude ever since.” (The Fraud, pg 64). This is one of the things that I like about the Carter Ross novels – there is some level of humor throughout the novel, sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious, and other times we get into full-blown sarcasm – my favorite (no, seriously).

One thing that I was really excited about in “The Fraud” was the return of Sweet Thang – a former intern first introduced in “Eyes of the Innocent”. I think that the interns are one of the most entertaining aspects of the Carter Ross novels, a point I’ve made before. I know that Sweet Thang was a fan favorite and I’m glad that Brad Parks brought her back for an encore. I think that the various supporting characters in the Carter Ross books are part of the charm. Whether the intern plays an integral part in the book or is more in the background than anything else, they are entertaining. The interactions between the interns and Carter Ross are what really sells me on them. He tries to teach them about the newspaper world and more often than not finds that his words of wisdom are falling on deaf ears. More often than not, when I laugh aloud at these books it’s during some intern interaction.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I enjoyed “The Fraud” and I think overall the series is a great read. I like that in this book we built more upon Carter Ross growing as a person into a different role – that of a dad-to-be. Brad Parks writes a blend of drama and comedy with a touch of mystery that keeps readers reading. You can’t help but cheer for the guy that one way or another finds himself saved in the nick of time by the girl. Carter Ross has a charm that keeps the readers coming back for more. Plus there are passages like: “But for those of us who are infrequent bedfellows with patience, the liberty of movement more than compensated for the extra mileage we put on our automobiles.” (The Fraud, pg 75). I mean, anyone that has driven in New Jersey can relate to that!