The Girl On The Train – Paula Hawkins

The Girl On The Train – Paula Hawkins

My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Opening Sentence: She’s buried beneath a birch tree, down towards the old train tracks, her grave marked with a cairn.

This was my first Paula Hawkins book. I got it from a friend who said it will be off-putting but stick with it and it gets better. I stuck with it. I finished it. I’m still waiting for it to get better. There might be moderate spoilers in this review but I’ll do my best to keep them inconsequential.

This was Hawkins’ first thriller, I started off describing it as a ‘well written grey depression’, but I changed my mind as the story progressed and it became written in a one dimensional, boxed in style where the reader is given very little idea of a world outside of the story.

The story is written from the points of view of 3 female characters. The main character is an alcoholic woman named Rachel, whose barely existent life is in complete disarray, where the most important and interesting part of her day is looking out the window on the train she takes everyday to pontificate on the lives of complete strangers. Creating a world in her head where she has convinced herself she knows them.

The reason I don’t refer to Rachel as the protagonist, even though technically that’s what she is, is that it doesn’t feel like the book has any protagonist at all.

This book has NO good characters. There are bad people, and worse people, but not really any good people. All the personalities are highly flawed, unreliable, dishonest and very very messy. I felt like I could trust none of their depictions. The only character I felt empathy for was Megan, and I ended up caring just about her through the whole plot.

The leading character, Rachel, is in fact so flawed that it leaves the reader feeling hopeless. I have mentioned in another review that if I find myself annoyed with the main character I give the book a very low rating. But that wasn’t the case here. Though I found her devastating, I was hoping Rachel would turn a corner and clean herself up, get her act together, stand up for herself or anything that would portray her in a positive light. Pretty soon though, it is made clear that no such thing is going to happen. That the story actually is all about a pathetic, miserable and ultimately sad main character.

What I wasn’t counting on though, was how the whole plot would depend entirely upon her being a complete wreck of a human being. How her sadness,her interference, her desperate need to feel important and her complete mental instability, and her constant blundering around , would be the most damaging and driving factor of the story. More so than the “criminal” or “villains”.

As for the plot twists, I was disappointed by their predictability. They seemed to fit a little too neatly together giving the book a very limited feel. I found that the better versions to the story were quickly and easily dismissed by being Rachel’s theories. Anytime such a dysfunctional leading character thinks of them as a possibility, “could I have done that?” “could this be what happened?” did he/she do that?”, I immediately disregard that as a possibility. Which eliminated pretty early on, what I felt would have been better plot points.

I feel like I should forgive the writer this downer because this is her first thriller. But I don’t think I will be picking up another book from this author anytime soon.

Favorite Lines:

1. “I have lost control over everything, even the places in my head.” (pg.18)

2. ” 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.” (pg.38)

3. “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.” (pg. 65)

4. ” I was a drinker anyway- I’ve always liked to drink. But I did become sadder, and sadness gets boring after a while, for the sad person and for everyone around them. And then I went from being a drinker to being a drunk, and there’s nothing more boring than that.” (pg. 85)

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Dragon Tears – Dean Koontz

Dragon Tears – Dean Koontz

Rating: 2 Stars

Opening sentence: Tuesday was a fine California day, full of sunshine and promise, until Harry Lyon had to shoot someone at lunch.

I never know what I am going to get with Dean Koontz.
I have to admit I was taken in by the name of the book expecting a dragon in it, knowing how Koontz likes his paranormal elements, and was sadly disappointed. Reminder to self : do NOT judge a book by it’s cover or title.
This is more like a pass-time read, which is a shame because I know Koontz can and has produced much better. Maybe the reason for my disillusionment was that I am reading this book long after the time it was written in. The story makes constant references to how crazy the 90’s are, reading it in 2016 just makes me wonder when the real craziness will begin.
There are different points of view throughout the story, though the only fully developed personalities and inner narratives seem to come from the protagonist, Harry Lyon, and a dog.
The back story for each character, even the main ones, was short and felt a little lacking. Maybe that was part of the plan to keep the story moving quickly. The story has it’s moments but has a tendency to go from being exciting to just feeling drawn out. I finished the book in little more than two days. partly to find out how it ends and partly to get it over with.
Here is what I will say about the ending without giving anything away, it felt like an anti-climax. The build up of the danger and power of the antagonist felt like it called for a bigger showdown than the one served.
I don’t have any outright complaints about the story, considering the time it was written in, and yet I can’t help but feel a little unsatisfied with it. As a paranormal horror story, which is what it is, it gets a lower rating from me than it would have if it was just a simple thriller.

Favorite Lines:
1. “These were the 1990’s, after all, an age of unreason if ever there had been one, when the bizarre was so common as to establish a new definition of normality” (pg.31)
2. “Only a sliver of blue sky remained to the east, fading as fast as hope usually did” (pg.42)
3. “Each survival was merely a short term triumph. In the end, oblivion for everyone. And in the meantime, nothing but pain.” (pg.89)
4. “These are the nineties, Connie. The premillenium cotillion, the new Dark Ages, when anything can happen and usually does, when the unthinkable isn’t only thinkable but accepted, when every miracle of science is matched by an act of human barbarity that hardly raises anyone’s eyebrow. Every brilliant technological achievement is countered by a thousand atrocities of human hatred and stupidity. For every scientist seeking a cure for Cancer there are five thousand thugs willing to hammer an old lady’s skull to applesauce just for the change in her purse.” (pg.122)

The Fireman – Joe Hill

The Fireman – Joe Hill

It’s surprising how many times a book about fire left me feeling cold.

I bought the audiobook version of Joe Hill’s Fireman, narrated by Kate Mulgrew. This is the second Joe Hill audiobook that I’ve heard performed by Kate Mulgrew. The first was N0S4A2.In both cases I found her execution flawless.

I think the key to making people like an audio version of a book  lies almost entirely with the narrator, the fact that the writer was someone as good as Joe Hill is just an added bonus. Kate Mulgrew has not disappointed me in the least.

The book itself was my third Joe Hill book and coincidentally all three were in audiobook form. I wonder if actually reading them myself will have an impact on how I feel about his writing. It’s a little addictive to hear it all being played out and I have a feeling I would much rather listen to his books than read them although I can’t say why.

The Fireman was the milder of the three books of Joe Hill I’ve come across. I think some of it is due to the subdued nature of the supernatural element in the book and a lot of it is due to the mild nature of the protagonist herself.

I am highly biased towards books with strong, leading characters that have an edge to them. The other two books had exactly that. In this case, the protagonist was a soft-natured, lukewarm, uninspiring nurse who was pregnant throughout the whole story.

What this book is NOT, thankfully, is a long account of a pregnant woman’s hormones and feelings and a walk-through of her prenatal journey. I cannot express my gratitude at the lack of information I received on this lady’s pregnancy. The only thing I cared about less than the protagonist was her uterus and what might be inside it.

If at any point during a story I find myself not at all concerned for the main character’s wellbeing, that book has already gone down to 2 stars in my eyes. I was, however, interested in the more colorful characters that surrounded her. I don’t know if that was done on purpose or not but it was a relief.

What saves the book in my opinion, is Joe Hill’s ability to create storylines in various frameworks.  It takes you through an interesting range of ambience. I felt reminded of  Gone Girl, The Chrysalids, Lord of the Flies, a bit of Resident Evil, and a little pinch of the Walking Dead. Maybe that’s just my way of seeing it.But I can’t think of any other way to describe the journey of this book.

Overall I give it a conservative 3 star rating.

 

 

Reader’s Block

I am  beyond horrified that it’s been almost 2 months since I’ve read a book.

I started a few books and didn’t finish a single one of them because…well…life happened. I hadn’t realized that it had actually been two months since I finished a book. Self loathing is sinking in.

I suffered from a Reader’s Block. I draw and write pretty often and am no stranger to hitting a wall and feeling like there is no way across. What helps in these kinds of situtaions I found, is to pursue the activity in a completely different way.

If it’s writing, then abandon what you’re having trouble finishing and write something else entirely. If it’s art, abandon the project and pick up another one, maybe one that’s a completely different medium or style than the one you’re having trouble getting done.

In my Reader’s Block, what happened was I was on to the second novel in the Game of Thrones series. Close to the end actually, when I got distracted by other work. When I was free again I found I just could not pick up the book again.

After a lot of procrastination, what I finally ended up doing was that I listened to an audiobook instead. Of a completely different genre and style from the one I had been reading before. Now that I’m done I have that sensation again where I’ve just got out from under the covers, so to speak, and just want to dive back in again. Which is good news for me because now I can get back to working on my ever growing list of ‘books I want to read’ that I’ve steadily been building up on Goodreads.

I’m back under the covers. 🙂