Review: The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train
The Girl on the Train
By Paula Hawkins
(Riverhead Hardcover, Hardcover, 9781594633669, January 2015, 336pp.)

*No Spoilers*

The Short of It:

A nosy woman on the train witnesses something odd and decides to look into it further.

The Rest of It:

This book is a lot of fun. Lots of page turning, plenty of twists and a classic unreliable narrator. Good stuff.

Rachel is an alcoholic and has lost her job. She rides the train all day to keep her roommate from knowing that she’s now unemployed. Her train happens to pass by the house she once owned with her husband, Tom. Tom is now married to Anna and they live happily in what was once her home. Rachel’s train ride through London is often spent tipping a bottle back. Seeing her old home and sometimes even catching a glimpse of the other woman, is enough to make her drink and drink she does. So much so, that what she sees is often not remembered later.

That memory thing becomes a problem early on.

Yes. It. Does.

Rachel’s daily observances include a couple that she’s come to know as Jess and Jason, names she’s made up to give them substance. She watches them interacting on the balcony of their apartment, and she’s dreamed up a back story for them. But when Jess does something out of character for her, and then a crime is committed, Rachel takes it upon herself to investigate.

As you can imagine, things get out of hand. Rachel sticks her nose into their lives and in the process, ends up involving her ex-husband and his wife. Both, really want nothing to do with Rachel but out of obligation, aware of Rachel’s raging alcoholism, Tom tries to look out for her when he can, which infuriates Anna.

Tension mounts as the story unfolds and when you get to those last few chapters, you can’t help but turn the kids away, let your dinner burn, etc. The ending needs to be read uninterrupted. Don’t tell me that I didn’t warn you.

But, honestly, Rachel’s antics were a little tiring. Just when I started to grow bored with her, some critical piece of info would surface and then I’d be flipping pages again. I suppose that’s a sign of true suspense because there was no way I was going to put the book down. I knew that from the start. Does it deserve the hype? Yes, I think so. If you pick it up for pure fun, you will enjoy it quite a bit. If you pick it apart and compare it to other books, you might find fault with some of it but really, who has the time for that?

Read it, because it’s fun and it’s a great distraction from all the crap going on in the world today.

Source: Purchased
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Sunday Matters: Losing My Dad

Sunday Matters

Right Now:

Taking a break from my normal Sunday Matters template to talk about my dad a little. For years, he’s been plagued by diabetes related conditions (blindness, kidney failure, kidney transplants x 2,  staph infections, etc.) and this past week, he gave in to them and passed away.

We’ve not had a typical father/daughter relationship but there were moments, very specific moments where I felt a connection and those moments are what I am trying to focus on now. One memory I have is the two of us spending the entire day at the Central Library in Los Angeles. My love of reading definitely started from those visits. I was only 4 years old and he’d sit me at a table with a stack of books and we’d sit there all day reading. Moments like that were rare but they are what I remember.

I feel oddly disconnected but at the same time very much in the center of it. I just feel so strange. I have never lost someone so close to me.

There are things that need to be addressed as far as my mom and sister are concerned. Of which, I have very little control over. The situation is very dire and although I have no trouble making decisions on most days, the decisions needed to made here leave me completely overwhelmed. Dysfunctional families are fun to read about, but not much fun to be a part of. To complicate matters, they don’t seem to want my help.

I just need a moment to think about it all.

This Week:

This week will be spent trying to figure stuff out. In the mean time, I am still on social media as a form of distraction. I am still reading because if I stop I feel as if I won’t be able to function. I’ll still be blog hopping and chatting away with all of you because that’s how I deal with things.

Grateful for:

Supportive friends and family.

Review: Her

HerHer
By Harriet Lane
(Little, Brown and Company, Hardcover, 9780316369879, January 5, 2015, 272pp.)

*No Spoilers*

The Short of It:

Two women at different stages in their lives, form an unlikely friendship that eventually leads to something darker.

The Rest of It:

Emma and Nina are close to one-another in age, but that is where the similarity stops. Nina is an accomplished artist with a teen-aged daughter while Emma is the mother of a toddler and a young baby. Nina is polished & sophisticated. Emma on the other hand, is riddled by the daily reminders of motherhood, the cluttered house, the unkempt hair, the dishes in the sink, and the boredom that fills her hours while other women are out having lunch with friends. The two women could not be more different, but when Nina recognizes Emma one day, she sets out to insert herself into Emma’s world and the two form an unlikely friendship with one another.

The story alternates between Emma and Nina and from the very first pages, I just knew that Nina was up to no good. That is actually made very clear from the start and that fact keeps the tension running high as you read about these women. And Emma, who is in awe of Nina and the sophistication she embodies is constantly trying to remember who she was before the kids. When Nina provides her with a much-needed break, Emma has this to say about herself:

I used to know this person, I used to understand her; maybe I’ll get to know her again.

Emma’s need to know Nina is tangible. She’s happily married, but trapped by the day-to-day routine and Nina’s friendship reminds her that there is a life outside of child rearing. But Nina’s motives aren’t entirely clear and so the reader is led along, knowing that something horrible is about to happen…or not.

Lane nails motherhood and that feeling you have when the baby spits up on your clean shirt and you decide to go to Target anyway. Some moms handle motherhood well and others do not. Emma falls between the two. She’s a good mom but tired and has let herself go. She misses her other self, the one that worked 9-5, had interesting conversations and could “do” lunch at a moment’s notice.

The last few pages of this book will make you angry. VERY angry. I won’t give it away but when I first read the ending, I wanted to hurl the book across the room. Now, after sitting on it for a day or two, I appreciate the ending a little more but I suspect that many of you will be angry with the book just because of the ending. Don’t ignore this book just because of the ending because it’s actually quite good and even, dare I say it, brilliant.

I don’t know what else Lane has written but I’d read her again.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Net Galley
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: West of Sunset

West of SunsetWest of Sunset
By Stewart O’Nan
(Viking Adult, Hardcover, 9780670785957, January 13, 2015, 304pp.)

The Short of It:

The glitter and sparkle of the Jazz Age is not present in this novel. Instead, we are given the gritty bits of a struggling F. Scott Fitzgerald as he tries to make it in Hollywood while, poor Zelda languishes away in a sanitarium.

The Rest of It:

The Great Gatsby is a novel that I love more and more as time passes, but I was not a fan of it when I first read it. Turns out, many did not care for Gatsby when it was first released. Written in 1925,the book did not sell well and was widely unpopular with many. Unable to match the success of his first novel, This Side of Paradise, Fitzgerald found himself if a bit of a predicament. Zelda, his wife, was losing her mind and living full-time in a sanitarium and his daughter, Scottie, was attending a rather expensive boarding school which frankly, he could not afford. To make ends meet, he moves to Hollywood to work as a screenwriter for MGM. West of Sunset is a fictionalized account of his life in Hollywood and his long-time affair with the gossip columnist Sheilah Graham.

I should tell you that this book has received very mixed reviews but I adored it. I knew little about Fitzgerald’s life in Hollywood and I found it all very fascinating to read about. Far from being a Golden Boy, he struggled to turn out quality work and many of his film projects were shelved but his daily interactions, his attempt to participate actively in an affair with Graham while taking care of his wife and daughter, wore him down quickly.

As in real life, the Fitzgerald we read about in West of Sunset is weak and chronically ill and being an alcoholic doesn’t help matters. Graham is constantly coming to his aid to nurse him back to health. The long weekends at the beach house, spent wiping his brow and tending to his every need. As a reader, you can’t help but wonder why a successful woman like Graham puts up with it, but love is a funny thing and although the falls from grace continue to plague them, she remains in his corner through all of it.

In between the long periods of illness, there is a lot of writing and lunches with Hollywood execs and interactions with big stars like Joan Crawford. The Hollywood that O’Nan writes about is the old Hollywood that’s we’ve all come to know. There is glamour, but not the type of glamour Fitzgerald participates in or contributes to. His world is colored by his need for drink which lends a darkness to an otherwise exciting time.

I found myself fascinated with all of it. After finishing the book, I wanted to re-read Gatsby or pick-up one of his other books. I am a big fan of O’Nan’s work and West of Sunset is no exception. Just know going in, that it’s not the glittery, feel-good book that you might expect from its cover.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Edelweiss.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Sunday Matters: Chinese Take-Out & Zombies

Sunday Matters

This past week was good. The weather was warm, I didn’t have to rush around and I even managed to cook some meals at home. Valentine’s Day was a little uneventful, but mostly by choice. I don’t deal well with crowds and often just opt to stay in, which is exactly what we did.

Except for the 4 a.m. registration for The Sound of Music on Valentine’s Day which wiped me out, only because I managed to turn my ankle. It’s not sprained or bruised but I managed to turn it just enough to keep rolling it every time I take a step. People were running! I was not. All I did was step out of the car wrong. The Hub says this could only happen to me. He’s probably right.

These cake pops that my friend made helped make-up for the early morning wake-up:

Cake pops

My book club met to select the books for the year and it’s an interesting list. I will post it soon. I agonized over my choices but they both made it in, The Boys in the Boat and Norwegian by Night.

And…I got to meet one of my fave people (Karen) for lunch. She and her husband stopped by to have lunch with me on Friday and she made me these awesome pillows.

There is a story behind these pillows. She posted the fabric on Instagram and I was drooling over it. Japanese prints always make me think of Murakami. And then when I met her for lunch, she had these pillows for me! I was near tears and so surprised. I am going to take the two pillows, reclaim the loft and finally have my reading loft. The Teen may protest.

Pillow

Right Now:

We are going to church this morning. I am looking forward to it since I missed last week’s service. I have coffee in hand now but will probably pick-up a green smoothie on the way home from church.

This Week:

Track starts. It was delayed by a week but will start for real this Tuesday. The Girl needs it.

I have a hair appointment. The one that was rescheduled since the one I had two weeks ago ended up being a no-go since the salon was closed. My hair is a disaster because of it. I am debating if I should go shorter.

Reading:

Just finished Her by Harriet Lane. The book was pretty wonderful until the very end when it all went to crap. Seriously, the last three pages. What the heck?

I need to choose my next book and once again, I haven’t a clue what to choose. Dead Wake is looking pretty good.

Watching:

We watched The Sound of Music last night, in prep for the next show. We also watched Definitely, Maybe. I had seen it before but I thought The Girl might enjoy it and she did. I started watching Breaking Bad at lunch. I am almost done with season one and it has grown on me. Tonight, The Walking Dead.

Making:

I am not making anything today but we are going to pick up Chinese take-out. I have been craving it for weeks but no one else has so this is sort of my Valentine treat. Chicken in black bean sauce and House Special garlic and rice noodles. I can’t wait.

Grateful for:

I am grateful for so many things, the roof over my head, my health (even though I have issues now and then, my issues could be so much worse) and I am grateful for friends. This past week, the actions of some of my friends really brought tears to my eyes.

Happy Thought For the Week:

One last week before rehearsals start for The Sound of Music. I will be starting a new book, my hair situation will be taken care of and every night this week I am going to tackle the clutter that has built-up over the past few weeks. When the weather is like this I just want to clean. Sad, but true.

What are you doing today?

This Book Cover Makes Me Long For Summer

Summerlong

What am I? Nuts? Summer in Southern California is a brutal, hot mess of a season. But there is just something lovely about it, too. I am thinking about it lately because our weather has been so warm. Think, mid-80’s warm.

It has me thinking about Mint Juleps and lounging in the backyard with a good book. You should know this about me though, I love the idea of reading outside but in reality I do not like the bugs, or the sun, or the critters that come up to me or even fall out of the trees. Yes, that happened to me at work. A squirrel fell out of the tree onto my head.

But still… I like to think about summer reading. I saw this book on Edelweiss and promptly requested it, but it hasn’t been approved yet. Click on the cover to read the blurb. It sounds so good.

Have you got your eye on a particular book to read this summer? I am such a sucker for covers like this one.

A few more pics…

As I mentioned in my previous post, we have a serious lack of photos from this show (Annie) due to the photo ban.  However, I forget about the two photos I purchased.

This is of The Teen as Rooster on stage. Photos taken by Nancy’s Portraits.

Rooster and Hannigan

Rooster, making a seriously creepy face and Ms. Hannigan

Lily, Rooster, Hannigan

Lily St. Regis, Rooster & Hannigan

And because I am a good sport, here is a really old pic from the first time he did Annie. He was Wacky, the dummy. Check out my shirt. Ugh.

Me and Wacky

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