Monday, June 29, 2015

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (2015)

This is a psychological murder mystery suggested by someone for me. I am not sure why this type of book doesn't appeal to me as much as it could. I almost stopped reading it, as it made me so uncomfortable, but I am glad I made it to the end, as it really was well put together.

Rachel takes the train into London every day, though she has been fired from her job for being drunk and insulting and doesn't want to tell her roommate. She looks out the window and pays special attention to her old house, where her ex-husband lives with Anna and their daughter Evie. A few doors down she see what she thinks of as the perfect couple - she gives them names, but we later find out they are Megan and Scott. We hear the story through the voices of the three women - day by day. Mostly chronological, but hear the past of one, when we need to. Megan disappears and Rachel thinks she saw something that could be useful. She keeps bothering her ex-husband Tom and his wife Anna.

I did not like being in the mind of alcoholic Rachel, especially in the beginning. I drank a lot in my youth, but it was always for fun, with people, never to get away from myself or my problems. Well, maybe we did drown our sorrows once in a while, but it didn't feel like this. So I am not sure what makes it so disconcerting. Watching a Harvard professor lose her memory in Still Alice was difficult, but did not make me feel this uncomfortable. Megan was also struggling with various mental issues, and she too made me uncomfortable, though as an undergraduate psych major I used to be interested in what made people tick. I wrote the above paragraph while I was in the beginning of the book. We do get an explanation and that circumstances and life had made Rachel and Megan that way, which somehow mitigated my discomfort by the end of the book. 

Midway I looked up The Girl on the Train online - I tend to go with Amazon for its official and unofficial reviews. When they compared it with Gone Girl, my discomfort made sense. Gone Girl is one of the few audio books I never finished, because I did not like that feeling of not knowing what is true, I never grew to care for any of the characters. But since I ran out of books to listen to, I did finish The Girl on the Train  and was glad I did. The book is well structured. I went back to the beginning and it was not that I didn't know what was true, but I did not have the complete story. Like an impressionist painting, it gives a dab of info here and there and only in the end we see the whole picture.

Dark Witch by Nora Roberts (2013)

Roberts takes us back to Ireland, the one foreign country she has ties to, and gets back to full force magic. I usually like a touch of magic; not so much this intense fight against evil that was set in motion centuries ago. But after being "good" and reading some historical novels or ones that teach me something, I was ready for a ride with Roberts' formulaic improbable three couple romance with strong women. Since I was listening to this, I was distracted by the overly dramatic reading, especially in the beginning, but got used to it.

Iona gives up everything she has in America and moves to Ireland, as suggested by her grandmother. Actually, other than her grandmother, there is not much keeping her in the U.S. as she never felt she fit in. Her only real love was horses; she was good with them and successful in competitions. Luckily there are horses in Ireland.

She spends her first week in a hotel in an old castle, but then moves in with her cousins Branna and Conner O'Dweyer. Turns out the three of them are witches descending from a strong witch from the past, who divided her power among three children instead of surrendering it to the evil guy. Looks like it is time to battle again, the three descendants reunited, but Iona doesn't really know how to control or work with her power, so Branna and Conner teach her.

I liked Iona's relationship with horses. She gets a job in the local stable where she meets Boyle - and their connection is intense - you know the routine. Finn, the owner of the stables (an a man with power in his own right) brings in a new horse - Alistair, who ends up being Iona's familiar spirit and partner in magic.

To fill out the trilogy couples, looks like Finn is connected to Branna, but they have some old wounds to heal, and Conner probably will be connecting with Maura, an amazon horsewoman. The closed world Roberts creates around this six-some seems limiting and the magic too spectacular. I think there really is something other than what we see, but it is much more subtle, as is evil. But the book was still decent entertainment for a long drive.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Adventures of Beekle by Dan Santat (2014)

This Caldecott Medal winner has a subtitle of "The Unimaginary Friend." It is cute, colorful and full of imagination and reality. Beekle lives on an island with other imaginary creatures, waiting for a child to choose him. When no one does, he goes looking for his friend and finds a lonely little girl.