Monthly Archives: May 2016

Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

3 Stars

This book has been compared to the Hitchcock classic, Rear Window.  I can agree with that description up to a point.  But this book really didn’t live up to the hype for me.  It took me far too long to get interested and I absolutely could not empathize with Rachel at all, there were too many times where I just wanted to smack her upside the head.  Unfortunately, I had this experience with many of the other characters too.

Rachel rides the same train everyday and while on the train she passes by a particular house every day during the slowest part of her journey.  She sees a couple and imagines what their life might be like, how happy they are.  She has given them names and an amazing life.  Until one day she sees something that she wishes she hadn’t.  Something that shatters her illusions of the blissful life she was so sure this couple had.

Rachel learns that the missing woman in the papers is actually the woman she’s seen daily on her train ride.  Rachel believes that she’s seen something that’s relevant to the investigation, but due to her drinking, makes her an unreliable witness.  Instead of being a help to the investigation, she has tangled everything up to the point where no one wants to believe anything she has to say.  She’s also in trouble with her ex-husband and his new wife, who wants to keep Rachel out of her life.

The story is told from the point of view of three women.  Rachel, Megan and Anna.  Something connects all three women even though they may not know it at the beginning.  By the end of the book, all of the threads are tied together and you can see their connection.  But it does take a very long time to get to this point and you have to go through some fairly agonizing chapters to get there.

I will say that the ending did surprise me somewhat.  It was a fairly satisfying ending to the book.  I just wish I could have identified with the characters more and actually been invested in what was happening to them.




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Filed under General Fiction

Review: Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet by H.P. Wood

4 Stars

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the chance to read this book prior to publication.  The review below is my opinion and was not impacted in any way by receiving an advance reading copy.

1904 Coney Island.  The newest amusement park, Dreamland, has opened and the summer tourists are beginning to swarm upon this bright new attraction.  But the other side of the island are the forgotten relics of a different era.  Part of that bygone era is Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet, a museum of curiosities and oddities.  Home to a mad scientist and a place for the Unusuals to hang out and not be stared at or laughed at for their appearance.  Into this scene comes young Kitty Hayward.  A young English woman who has come to America with her family and has seemed to lost them along the way and no one will tell her where they are.  By luck or chance, she is brought to Magruder’s and its inhabitants take her under their wing as they try to help her find out what has happened to her mother.

The story brings together two sides of the coin in Coney Island.  The business owners and politicians who will do anything it takes to keep not only their investments but their own class safe.  On the other side you have the everyday people who make these investments profitable, the Unusuals who put on their shows and ply their trades to bring in the tourists.  In the wake of a plague going through the island like wildfire, the blame is put on the modest flea circus held at Magruder’s and on those who run the circus and other myriad of features around the island.  The tourists flee and those left behind have to struggle to stay alive, keep their way of life intact and solve the mystery of Kitty’s mother.

There are so many characters that sometimes it is hard to keep them all sorted out.  But they are all vividly drawn and they each have their own story that lends to the greater narrative.  The heroes and villains are sometimes one in the same.  There is plenty of action and suspense and there are a few twists and turns along the way that you may not be expecting.  I was left wanting more and I haven’t yet decided if that’s good or bad!

While this is a work of fiction, you can tell that the history of Coney Island was well researched and the descriptions of Magruder’s Curiosity Closet remind you of several oddities and curiosities museums all over the world.  The more unusual characters were treated with respect and weren’t allowed to become caricatures.  I think my favorite would have to be Rosalind and I think he will probably become yours too.

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Filed under Historical

The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

3 Stars

This is the last book in the Mistborn Trilogy.  There will be some spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read the previous two books.  I would recommend starting with The Final Empire first.

Tricked into releasing the divine power hidden at the Well of Ascension, they now know that this power was an evil and dark entity who is determined to see the utter destruction of the world.  The mists are engulfing everything, staying later everyday and killing people at random.  The ashmounts are spewing ash at an alarming rate, covering everything and choking out what little plant life there was in the world.  Somehow Elend and Vin are sure they can somehow stop this destruction from happening.

This is the last book in the trilogy and you do get the necessary explanations and loose ends tied up.  There is an ending, though it may not be as satisfying as many of us had hoped.  The same disappointments that I had from The Well of Ascension are back again.  Everyone doubts themselves, everyone is depressed and ready to give up.  Evil is taking over.  There’s nothing to live for.  Why do they even try.  Most of this book was just utterly depressing.  It was hard to slug through this epic 700+ pages of doom and gloom.

Faith and belief were the overwhelming theme to The Hero of Ages.  The last two books touched quite a bit on religion, faith and the power of belief.  But this book really ramps it up.  Sazed has lost his faith and seems to be coming undone.  He no longer believes in any of the religions he has studied and no longer tries to convert anyone to a religion because he no longer believes in them after watching so much death, including the death of his new-found love.  Vin and Elend also have their doubts and their crisis of faith.

Some of the more minor characters are able to shine a little more in this book, especially Spook.  His transformation was one of the more interesting parts of the story.  I was very satisfied with what happened to this once shy and quiet young man.

There were a few twists and surprises.  Some seemed to be there just for the sake of the surprise.  They didn’t add as much to the narrative as I had hoped.  While it was still a very strong novel, I think that the emphasis on faith and belief muddied the waters a bit and took away from the struggle for life.  The battles were almost afterthoughts and the climax was mostly anti-climatic.

If you were a fan of the first two Mistborn novels, you’ll want to read this one just for the sake of finishing the trilogy.  I was just sad that it didn’t end on a stronger note.



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Filed under Fantasy

Shame by Alan Russell

2 Stars

Caleb Parker is trying to run away from his past and get out from under the shadow of his father.  A father who happened to be a prolific serial killer with the moniker of Shame.  He had branded his victims by carving the word Shame into their bodies.  Years after his death sentence was carried out, a new string of murders are eerily similar to those of Shame.  Caleb quickly becomes the prime suspect in these murders when police learn who he is and his proximity to the victims.

Caleb forges an unlikely alliance with Elizabeth Line, a writer who published his father’s story after being his only surviving victim.  As the body count increases, they find themselves playing a game of cat and mouse with the killer.  They know that the killer is out to get one of them, but the question is who?  As the killer escalates and comes ever closer to them, they know that their time is short.

The premise was great.  Child of a serial killer being accused of following in his father’s footsteps.  And the surviving victim being thrown back into the mix wondering if someone is trying to finish the job.  That was tantalizing enough to draw me in and made me want to find out more, to see how it would pan out.  But sadly, for me, that didn’t happen.  What started out promising, ended with a whimper.

None of the characters are convincing.  It’s hard to empathize with either Caleb or Elizabeth.  The shocking discoveries aren’t so shocking.  The ultimate reveal was an absolute let down.  The clues are given to it way in advance, so there’s no shock value, there’s no real surprise.  By the end, I just didn’t care enough anymore.  The flipping back and forth between multiple points of view and going from the present to the past was jarring and really didn’t lend anything to the story.  I think it could have been a much stronger story if it was told from the point of view of one character instead of many.

This one just wasn’t for me.  It is a quick read and the premise is strong.  But the story just didn’t live up to what I think it could have been.  It’s a shame…

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Filed under Mystery/Suspense/Thriller