Girl-on-Train-Review

As the HOT book right now I was hesitant to read this in the midst of the current fervor, but since I need to know what people are reading, I acquiesced. This is a solid thriller/mystery that lives up to and even surpasses the comparisons to the previous “flavor of the month” thriller, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

What I liked most about The Girl on the Train is the characters and their development. The novel is told mostly from the point-of-view of Rachel, an out-of-work alcoholic whose life has been spinning out of control since her and her ex-husband began having problems (they eventually divorced after he cheated on her). But there are other parts told by two minor characters, Anna and Megan, which gives a deeper insight into not only other characters, but other sides of Rachel. After Megan goes missing, we not only get Rachel’s side of the story, but we hear from Megan herself in chapters that flash back to the time before she vanished. And like Gone Girl, we are left wondering what happened to Megan, or if anything happened to her at all.

Hawkins does a fantastic job of setting the characters up. Rachel’s downward spiral is convincing and seemingly accurate. The ending, though, does lack some intensity (trying to give a thriller a satisfying end is not an easy task), but overall I feel this is a worthwhile read. Is it worth all of the hubbub it’s getting? Well, considering SOME of the books out there, anytime a well-written, entertaining book does well, it’s justified. And this one is both well-written and entertaining enough for any suspense reader.

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Cuckoo-Review

Because of my inquisitive nature (I guess), I’m always suspicious of bestselling authors attempting to “try something new” under an alias. Romance novelist Nora Roberts writes crime as J.D. Robb. Really? Not making enough money as Nora Roberts? Did Stephen King really have to become Richard Bachman to prove his worth as an author?

Well, when the latest foray into this anonymous world hit book shelves, I was even more suspicious. This time, it was children’s scribe, Harry Potter inventor and millionaire extraordinaire J.K. Rowling writing crime fiction (adult crime fiction, no less) as Robert Galbraith. Rowling has recently (about a year before The Cuckoo’s Calling came out) made a splash in adult fiction with A Casual Vacancy, which was successful. So why use a pseudonym now? Why use a pseudonym at all? And why a male pseudonym?

As I was contemplating all of these questions, basically trying to come up with an excuse NOT to read this book, I started it. I like crime fiction and moderately enjoyed the writing style of Casual Vacancy (though the story there did not hold my interest), so I thought, what the heck?

And guess what? Surprise, surprise – I loved it. Rowling – I mean Galbraith – really shows off her writing chops with this highly engaging, thrilling tale of fashion and celebrities. Her main character, Cormoran Strike, is a character right out of the pages of Dashiell Hammett – hard-nosed, no-nonsense and crusty with a soft streak. Strike, just like Sam Spade, is a PI, but Strike is down-and-out…almost. He takes a case involving the suspicious death of a supermodel, and he not only sees a chance to revitalize his career, but also a chance to gain some high-profile (i.e. RICH) clients. But the case leads Strike places he never thought it would. A must read for crime fiction fans!

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bitterriver

Keller’s second mystery set in Acker’s Gap, West Virginia and featuring prosecutor Bell Elkins is ALMOST as strong as the first, A Killing in the Hills (2012).

I loved Keller’s first Elkins outing (it was one of the most compelling American mysteries I had read in a while), so I was very excited by the prospect of another harrowing suspense tale. Although it’s not as strong as the first, this story is still intense – a real page-turner. This time, just as Elkins is put in charge of prosecuting the case of a murdered teenager found in the river, two more devastating events happen in Acker’s Gap…a sniper shoots up the courthouse and there is an explosion at the popular diner in town. Elkins pursues the case in her usual persistent way, but this time, her life comes under threat and the case has issues hitting too close to home, literally.

The best part of this book, as it was with A Killing in the Hills, is the well-constructed plot, fully-realized characters and excellent, top-notch writing. Keller, a journalist by trade who earned a well-deserved Pulitzer Prize for her feature writing in the Chicago Tribune, has found a second trade: crime novelist. I cannot wait for the next Elkins book!

The book is available for check out at the Niles Public Library.

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Prisoners

One feeling kept me going throughout the entire time I watched the film Prisoners: FEAR. At over two and a half hours, you would think that I could not possibly have been afraid for the entire film. Well, I was. And, most likely, you will be too.

In addition to instilling fear from minute one, Prisoners also continually surprised me. I thought it was going to be just a simple revenge movie. But, this is so much more than that. Filled with leaps and twists and unexpected turns around every corner, Prisoners is more than a thriller. It is an adrenaline ride.

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captain-phillips

I have issue with movies based on real stories where I know the ending…mostly because it kills the suspense. Titanic: No matter how much Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet love each other, the boat will still sink. Marie Antoinette: She tells the French people to eat cake and then she loses her head. Joan of Arc: She inspires France and gets burnt at the sake for her troubles. Now, I know Hollywood takes a lot of liberties with endings (adaptations rarely end exactly as they do in the book or on the stage, etc.) But, even the fickle movie industry would never be so brazen enough to change the ending of a real life tale, right? Titanic 2: It’s Didn’t Sink will never be produced, right? (Well, hopefully!)

So, in Hollywood’s latest string of based-on-real-life movies (Dallas Buyers Club, The Wolf of Wall Street, 12 Years a Slave), one stands out for me, EVEN THOUGH I was pretty sure I knew how the movie was going to end. Captain Phillips is based on a book by, that’s right, Captain Richard Phillips. Chances are (and I’m just GUESSING here) if he was able to write about his death-defying experience, he most likely survived. Again, I’m JUST guessing. So, what does this tell us…that we know the ending. Darn, another Titanic. But, wait. Not this movie. Captain Phillips is a wild ride, a fast-paced, highly enjoyable thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

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A strong Chicago-based mystery from Chicago-based writer Walker, who has a knack for capturing both the essence of the city and the suspense that fills its streets.  In this novel, Walker, a former Catholic priest, uses his seminary background as the backdrop for this latest, involving a priest who gets caught up in an international quagmire.  One day, out of the blue, Father Paul Clark’s friend is killed right in front of him.  Barely escaping with own life, Clark soon finds out that his friend was involved in some less than savory dealings with the wrong types of people.  Enter a woman who says she is from the government who has a plan to help Clark. Can she be trusted?  Clark spends much of the novel trying to answer that question, a search which leads him all the way to South America.  In the midst of all of this, a young man enters him life and shakes his beliefs to the core. 

As mysteries go, this is quite strong.  The character of Paul Clark is a believable, convincing protagonist.  All throughout the book, no matter what Clark is going through, we feel his pain and can sympathize with his difficult situations.  As a priest, he might appear as unrelatable, but Walker gives Clark such compassion and conscience and even some faith crises that we can understand what Clark is experiencing. And Walker also makes good use out of Chicago.  Through the pages, I was able to visualize the gritty and dank streets of Chicago where Clark was desperately trying to run for his life. 

This is the second mystery I have read by Walker (Saving Paulo was the other one) and though I liked both, I found myself drawn more this Clark and his set of nerve-wrenching circumstances. 

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 In 1981 Nora Roberts published her first novel, Irish Thoroughbred. Some thirty years later Roberts has written her 200th published novel, Witness and it is a ROMANCE WINNER!  Elizabeth Fitch is a sixteen year old daughter of a frigid surgeon mother in Chicago, who fed up with the rigid life style her mother commands, goes to the mall, buys clothes not dictated by her mother and goes to a club with a school acquaintance. She drinks too much, winds up at the home of a member of the Russian mob and witnesses several murders. She runs for her life and calls 911. Ultimately she is in a safe house under the protection of several agents but on her birthday her good guy protectors are killed by fellow agents in league with the mob. Elizabeth escapes and knows she can trust no one.
Fast forward twelve years Elizabeth Fitch is now Abigail Lowery, a computer genius running a profitable security company, hiding out in Bickford Arkansas with her gun collection and well trained dog. The new handsome chief of police, Brooks Gleason is curious and is not shy about trying to unlock the puzzle of Abigail Lowery.
 I stayed way past my bedtime finishing this novel. It is a strong romantic suspense read with good characterization and pacing.   Her computer hacking skills, sharp intelligence and vulnerability make Abigail an interesting study.  Brooks Gleason is kind, handsome, smart and of course the perfect male. Roberts is deft with dialogue and the humor is well spaced with the suspense.  On a cold winter night, Witness provided cozy relaxing comfort.
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By far my favorite book of 2012 (even though I read it in 2013).  It is a strong, fierce thriller that combines social commentary and suspense…all in one well-written story.  It is no surprise to me that Ruth Rendell is still writing strong, highly literary pieces of fiction.  She is one of the leaders of the mystery genre, especially British mysteries.  Writing here as Barbara Vine, Rendell writes what I think is one of her best in years…lending truth to the adage that some things improves with age. 

The story here starts off in 2011 with a sister and her brother, Grace and Andrew, sharing a home in London.  They divide the living space of the house equally, a situation which works fine until the brother’s lover, James, comes to live with them.  James sets off a series of events that neither Grace nor Andrew will ever recover from.  While coping, Grace begins reading a long-lost manuscript, never published because its storyline includes unwed mothers and homosexual characters in the 1920s.  That’s when a completely different part of the story takes over.  Or at least we THINK it’s different…because it is set in the post-WWI era.  Soon, correlations between Grace’s modern-day dilemmas and the historical plot become evident. 

The historical storyline revolves around a sister, Maud, the youngest child in a very conservative Bristol family, who gets herself pregnant. After telling her family, they want to send her away.  But, her brother John has a different idea.  He is homosexual and aware that he will never be able to lead a respectable life as a gay man, so he and Maud begin living together as husband and wife…in name only…so that the child does not seem illegitimate. 

Both storylines are interesting and compelling but the historical one just captivates the reader with twists and turns that the reader never expects (or at least I didn’t).  I found both tales together a great commentary on how things regarding sexuality and homosexuality have changed…yet how some things have stayed the same through the centuries. 

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