Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Girl on the Train and Other Books

She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb is the story of Dolores Price. Dolores spends her teen years in front of the TV, becoming a 257 pound young woman. Aside from weight gain, nothing else has come easy to her.

Having never read anything from Oprah’s Book Club, I had high expectations for this best seller. It did not live up to them.

First of all, I don’t like reading vulgar language. I can ignore a bit of it, but when it is overflowing, I have a hard time pushing forward. There were many places in this book I skimmed over because of the language and sex. Many times I came close to leaving it. Still, there was enough good writing sprinkled in to keep me pushing through, hoping it would get better. But in the end, it wasn’t worth it. I kept waiting for her time to come, and when it did, it was anticlimactic.

This book left me feeling regret for the time I spent reading it. Afterward, I was ready for something light and fun. 

 I chose the YA novel Bottled by Carol Riggs

Adeelah Naji is seventeen when she is imprisoned as a genie in a bottle. Adeelah is hunting for the love of her life who has found an elixir that allows him to live through to the modern world, in which Adeelah is now living.

This book did live up to my expectations. It was light and fun!

It is aimed at a younger audience, but it was enjoyable for this senior lady. I highly recommend it for teens, pre-teens, and anyone young at heart.

 The next book I read was The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

This book more than made up for the first one!

How does a writer get me to feel empathy for a lying, busy-body, pathetic drunk? 

Rachel had a nice life in the suburbs until difficulty conceiving drove her to drink—in excess! To the point she lost everything. She’s obsessed with her ex, even though he has moved on with another wife and child. Now she’s become obsessed with a couple she sees from the commuter train. She’s even given them names and created a fairy tale life for them. But one day she sees something that shatters the illusion.

This suspense has everything. The characters are well-developed; the pace moves along; there are plot twists throughout. It kept me guessing. This is a hard-to-put-down novel. I didn’t want it to end! It will definitely end up on your favorites shelf.

After grieving the end of The Girl on the Train, 
I started reading The Lake by AnnaLisa Grant

I forced myself to read over a third of this book before giving up. I can’t believe all the 5-star reviews on Amazon, unless pre-teens are into reviewing books. Redundant doesn’t begin to cover it. My twelve-year-old granddaughter might enjoy it, but I would hope for her long for better quality. 

I would recommend it to people that have trouble sleeping.

I am now reading Cold River by Liz Adair

So far, so good.

I'll let you know.  

Do you mostly read one genre, or do you like to mix it up?

Has a book every left you reluctant to leave it and start the next?

Monday, July 4, 2016

Review of When Mockingbirds Sing by Billy Coffey

I read this book on the recommendation of an author friend. “His writing is amazing. I would love to be able to write like him.” That was enough of an endorsement for me to buy the book. 

It didn’t take me long to see what she meant. His descriptive writing is heavenly, painting a perfectly detailed portrait of each scene. The story ran along at a very nice pace, except for a few brief spots I’ll mention later.

From the author’s website:

What marks the boundary between a miracle from God and the imagination of a child?

Leah is a child from Away, isolated from her peers because of her stutter. But then she begins painting scenes that are epic in scope, brilliant in detail, and suffused with rich, prophetic imagery. When the event foreshadowed in the first painting dramatically comes true, the town of Mattingly takes notice.

Leah attributes her ability to foretell the future to an invisible friend she calls the Rainbow Man. Some of the townsfolk are enchanted with her. Others fear her. But there is one thing they all agree on—there is no such thing as the Rainbow Man.

I quickly fell in love with the main character, nine-year-old Leah. One reviewer was irritated by the young girl’s stuttering. Hint: don’t read the stutter. I found it only added to the charm of her character. Her new best friend Allie is equally delightful, as well as Barney, a has-been toy-maker/shopkeeper with an ailing wife whom he deeply loves. 

The original story line was equally entertaining and suspenseful. Is Leah hearing a messenger from the Lord? Or is her imagination getting the best of her? Either way, it makes it hard for her family to blend into their new hometown. The local church body is having a really hard time with the whole “love thy neighbor” thing.

The story alludes to an earlier incident involving another resident of the small town being “touched by the magic,” but that major clue is left unresolved. I really wanted to know what it was all about. (-1/2 star)

The author really loves to use parentheses (you know—these little curved thingies) in a lot of sentences.  I would have liked them to have been a little less (or maybe a lot less) of an occurrence. In many places, (though I don’t have a tally of the number of places the author chose to use them) they interrupted the pace a bit. I don’t like to get to the end of a sentence only to forget (mostly because my brain is getting older) what the beginning of the sentence said. I think you get my point. I know it’s a style thing, but it’s a bit overdone. (-1/2 star)

Skimming a few one-star reviews, I noticed a few people slamming the theology. This is fiction. And it has a very good lesson I hope most readers catch. A few reviewers criticized this book for the inspirational aspect. This IS inspirational fiction.

Overall, I really liked this book and will definitely read more from this author.

Do you read the low-rated reviews before buying a book?
How much importance do you give them?

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Review of The Gifting by K.E. Ganshert

"If science is right, then I am crazy. And crazy is dangerous." 

      In a world where nothing supernatural exists, Tess Eckhart is positive she’s going crazy. After her complete freakout at a high school party, her family is too. So much that they pack their bags and move across the country, next to a nationally-renowned facility for the mentally ill. 

      Tess is determined to fit in at her new school, despite the whispers and stares. But when it comes to Luka Williams, a reluctantly popular boy in her class, she’s unused to a stare that intense. Then the headaches start, and the seemingly prophetic dreams that haunt her at night. As Tess tries harder to hide them, she becomes increasingly convinced that Luka knows something—that he might somehow be responsible. 

      But what if she’s wrong? What if Luka Williams is the only thing separating her from a madness too terrifying to fathom?

     I used to say I didn’t read much YA. I can’t say that anymore. I have discovered that I’m not too old to enjoy a youthful story. This particular book also fits well on the psychological thriller shelf, which is really my cup of tea. Although not as terrorizing as many PTs, the reader has to decide between what is reality and what is mental illness. The real draw for me is the twisted mind stuff—not necessarily the thriller part—so this book was right up my alley. (Think Secret Window or A Beautiful Mind.)

     For much of the beginning, I did think that the story would really appeal more to teens and twenty-somethings (my grandgirls) than my peers (a.k.a. old lady friends)—there’s a lot of high school social life stuff going on. But I was still entertained. Very entertained. 

     The main character, Tess, appeals to me from the beginning. Empathy pours out for this poor girl who is ostracized from the crowd, with her sanity hanging by a thread. Her world is one in which mental illness is shunned to a much greater degree than even in today’s world. It is considered a defect—even a danger—not worthy of being allowed to exist in society. Stack that kind of pressure on a mixed-up outcast teen! You. Will. Care. About. Tess.

     The story moves along at a good pace. I like Ganshert’s writing style—revealing Tess’s thoughts throughout the dialog. There are plot twists right up to the last page. And speaking of the last page…

     This book is the first in a three-part series. They are not ‘stand alone’ stories, but a continuing chronicle of the main characters’ experiences. Though this book is a good read without the other installments ***TINY SPOILER ALERT***—it has a cliff-hanger ending.  END OF SPOILER You will want to read the next.

     I have to be honest—I downloaded this eBook only because I am familiar with the author Katie Ganshert and it was free. The YA genre was a new branch for Ganshert, who has written many novels in the inspirational contemporary romance genre. I’ve had this eBook since last year, and finally decided to read it.

     I loved this story so much I am buying the other two books of the series! WARNING: Do NOT read the summary of parts two and three if you don’t want any spoilers. I just did and I was so… Nope. Not gonna tell. But the description does let you know what happens after the first book--something I didn’t want to know yet.

     If you can’t fathom reading about high school crushes and popular kids, don’t read this book. But if you want a thoroughly enjoyable story with mystery and a lovable underdog, I highly recommend this one. I’m giving it five stars! And I just now bought book two, The Awakening. I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

 *UPDATE: I finished The Awakening and immediately purchased The Gathering. Loved book two even more than the first! I couldn't put it down. I went on to finish book three in a couple of days. I made excuses to sneak away and read. I highly recommend these three books.

This series is one of those where you don't want it to be over. It was amazing! There are lots of surprises in the plot. The characters were great. The pace was excellent. The only negative is there is no fourth book in the series!
Do read them in order as they are not stand-alone
stories, but a three-part tale.

This story would make an awesome movie!