Mar 23, 2015

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (Unabridged Audio Version)

***There are NO SPOILDERS in this review***

Every day Rachel takes the same train to London and back for work.  The train has become such a part of her life that during one of the its regular stops she watches and fantasizes about the people living in a particular house that sits close to the station.  It becomes such an unhealthy obsession that while Rachel waits for fellow passengers to load and unload at this stop, she has even given one couple names and conjures up stories of what she feels their lives must be like.  Rachel becomes so consumed that before long she is insinuating herself into their lives.  But Rachel is not a stranger to this row of houses along the track.  Her past is connected to it and before long Rachel's past and the present collide in a very disturbing and dangerous way.

MY THOUGHTS...

... On The Story: There certainly has been a lot of talk about this debut novel set in and around London in 2013.  I almost didn't even pick it up because I had read  where many people thought it was very slow to start and a few had a hard time finishing it. It seemed everyone was reading this book, so I put it off but I kept coming back to it,  Since I was expecting it to be a slow starter, I decided I would listen to the audio version instead. I was thinking that maybe it wouldn't seem slow for me if I were to listen instead of read.  Personally, I think it was a great decision!

The story is a strange one and has a stalker feel to it but unlike many other readers, I didn't find the beginning slow at all.  Perhaps because I was listening? I don't really know. In those first chapters, little nuggets of Rachel's life were being dropped that caught my attention. There were many moments where I was surprised by a turn of events or a revelation that I didn't see soming. There were a lot of those later on in the book.  I would definitely call this book a thriller and a mystery that completely pulled me in. I've heard some say it has a Hitchcock feel to it and I would definitely agree with that. The characters were complex and not all of them were likable, which added even more suspicion on my part.  Rachel, as the main narrator, was not very reliable because of her issues so I learned to be wary of her.

This is a mind-bending story and I struggle to get my full thought across because I don't want to say too much for those of you who haven't read it yet. In fact, I think I've said enough and I will let you discover the rest on your own. I will say, however, that I believe this is a book worth reading with an unusual and interesting story.

...On the Audio Interpretation:

I do think it's quite possible that I enjoyed this book as much as I did because I chose the audio version.  I really enjoyed each of the narrators:  Rachel, Meghan, and Anna.  I was most taken with Rachel and Meghan, more so than with Anna mainly because Anna's voice had a shrillness to it that I didn't enjoy as much.  That said, they each had me sitting near the edge of my seat as the book went on. I picked up every little bit they dropped, so I guess I would even venture to say they had me captivated.

The bottom line is that, for me, I found this book to be totally entertaining from beginning to end and I would recommend it, especially the audio version. I can imagine it would be even more intriguing if you live in a large city where you actually take a train regularly. In my opinion, I think THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN is a huge sucess as a debut novel and I will undoubtedly be looking forward to whatever new book Ms. Paula Hawkins comes out with next.

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN (Unabridged Audio Version)
Author:  Paula Hawkins
Narrators:  Clare Corbett, Louise Brealey, India Fisher
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Published: 01/13/2015
Length: 10 hrs 59 nubs
Source: Purchased with monthly credit from Audible.com
Recommend? Absolutely Yes!

Mar 13, 2015

Mightier Than the Sword by Jeffrey Archer (Clifton Chronicles #5)

As these stories move into 1969- 70 the Clifton and Barrington families are fighting both old and new battles. After the thwarted effort by Don Pedro to blow up their luxury liner, the MV Buckingham, on its maiden voyage to New York City, Emma Clifton, the chairman of Barrington Shipping, struggles to keep the whole incident quiet for fear of a tremendous loss, both for the company, and herself. Her attentions are stretched, also by the lawsuit Lady Virginia has filed against her for libel. That suit has the potential to bring the company down, which Emma believes is the real purpose of the suit.

Harry has written the next book in his very successful Inspector William Warwick series and at the same time has taken up a cause he strongly believes in, even though it puts him in a direct line of fire from the Russians.

Giles and Sebastian continue with their respective careers in politics and banking while also striving to find love.  And though they both face difficult obstacles, they are determined to win the hearts they long for regardless of the sacrifices they may have to make.

MY THOUGHTS:

I've said it before, but I don't ever mind saying it again. I absolutely love Jeffrey Archer's storytelling talent!  When I finish one chapter, I'm so anxious to get to the next to see where he is going to take me. His perfectly developed characters are seamlessly woven into multi-layered stories that have so many angles to them and I enjoy it so much. He is able to not only tell a great story of political intrigue or a business takeover and add his style of humor that make his books the complete full package. Totally entertaining on every aspect.

With that being said, I can't say this is my favorite installment of the series, especially since I loved book 4 (CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR) so much but I still liked it a whole lot! I always read Archer's books so fast because I get so involved in them but then there's the let down that I have to wait an entire year for the next one to come out! I've grown to love these characters and feel I know them pretty well and I always look forward to rejoining them every year. I can't even think about what I will do once the series is finished in a few years!

If you've never read this series I encourage you to give it a try. The books rely heavily on the characters' history, so I feel you must start at the beginning with book one to grasp the entire dynamic of the series.  The stories move along swiftly and are so interesting, partly because Archer weaves historical elements into them.  Another plus is that Archer jumps right from one book to the next, so the action starts on page one with each new installment. This time around I especially enjoyed Harry's storyline regarding a former language translator who was imprisoned after writing a book about his experience working at the Kremlin under Josef Stalin and the lengths Harry was willing to go to to help get him released.   And, as always Jeffrey Archer left readers with another jaw-dropping cliffhanger at the end to torture readers until next year!

Special thanks to Jessica and Brittani at St. Martin's Press for the advance copy they provided me and to the author for such a great reading experience.

MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD (Clifton Chronicles #5)
Author: Jeffrey Archer
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Published: February 24, 2015
Length: 416pp
Source: Uncorrected Digital Galley from the publisher through NetGalley

Mar 3, 2015

Undone by Karin Slaughter (Will Trent #3) Unabridged Audio Version

In this third installment of the Will Trent Series, GBI Special Agents Will Trent and Faith Mitchell are tasked with finding a very dangerous man who is abducting, torchering and killing a certain type of woman.  His pattern seems to be women who don't have many friends, are not very nice people so that likely no one will be looking for them when they disappear.  Another odd similarity is that all the women are extremely thin,  possibly suffering from some sort of eating disorder.

Dr. Sara Linton is on duty in the ER the night one of the victims is brought in to Grady Hospital after being hit by a car out in the middle of nowhere, naked and obviously severely tortured and beaten. Using her skills as a former coroner, she tries to help Will and Faith uncover clues as much as she can, much to Faith's disapproval. When another woman is suspected of being abducted from a grocery store parking lot, the GBI special agents are up against the clock to find her before its too late. Hopefully she'll be found before her six year old son has to be put into the system and before any more women are abducted.

My Thoughts:

Though I can't say this book has the same intensity as the first book, TripTych, it does have compelling twists and turns that I've come to expect from Karin Slaughter's work.  Agents Trent and Mitchell have now been partners for about a hear now.  They haven't worked out all ot he their issues but they do make a good team and they have each others backs. The introduction of the Sara Linton character to this series adds another layer that I think will only make it more complex. Readers of Slaughter's Grant County Series know that Dr. Linton is that series' main character.  I, myself, have not read that series but the way in which she was brought in was seamless and fit the story well.  Unlike some of the already established characters, Dr. Linton is a likable character with a soft side that will round out the diverse cast.

The story, like the previous books, was brutal, so if you don't care for gory details, this series may not be for you. The crimes are disturbing and unthinkable but, for me, I'm not offended or freaked out by them. Its great crime fiction and suspense writing. Slaughter is very creative and its't afraid to push the envelope. I'm really glad I've made the time to read her books. It reminds me of how Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo's books had me on the edge of my seat. Its an adrenaline rush I didn't know I'd craved so much.

Audio Review:

This is the first time I've listened to one of Karin Slaughter's books and though I did enjoy it, I prefer reading her books as opposed to listening to them.  Maybe some of the intensity I was missing would've been there had I been reading it.  Not that the narrator, Natalie Ross, didn't do a good job. I just didn't love it. Since I'd read the first two books, I already had the tone of the characters in my mind and it was just different. I don't know if that makes sense or not but that's the only way I can explain it. It may just be the act of flipping pages to see what's happening next that I missed.

I'm very much looking forward to book four in the series, BROKEN and like I said, I'll be reading that one on my Kindle. These are great books that get right into the story from page one.  If you are a fan of Jo Nesbo, I think you'd like this series.  I still have to say though, that TripTych is still my favorite so far.

UNDONE by Karin Slaughter (Will Trent #3) Unabridged Audio Version
Author: Karin Slaughter
Narrator: Natalie Ross
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: July 2009
Length:  16 hrs 7 mins
Source: Audible

You May Also Be Interested In:


Feb 28, 2015

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (Unabridged Audio Version)

This review contains no spoilers

There is nothing I love more than when a book, or in this case, an audiobook, pulls me in so tightly and quickly, I lose all sense of time and what's going on around me. That is what happened when I began listening to ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr.  

This compelling, historical fiction novel centering around a blind Parisian girl and an orphaned German boy whose paths would, under normal circumstances, probably never cross, proves that even in life's most challenging phases, it can bring out the best in people, even those from two drastically different worlds. 

In early 1940's France, Marie-Laure and her father flee Paris to escape the Nazis and go to Saint-Malo to live with a reclusive uncle until they can return home, where her father works as the lock maker for the Museum of Natural History.  Werner lives in a German orphanage with his sister. After finding a broken transistor radio, and making it work once again,  they listen in secret to a man's voice reading children's stories over the airwaves. They are mesmerized by this and wonder where this man could be. Soon Werner's talents become a knack for working on these radios he is recruited by the German army and sent to Hitler's Youth Camp for further training, leaving his sister behind.

Marie-Laure's father later sets out for Paris alone to return a precious item to the museum that had been entrusted to him for safekeeping.  This mission was so secret not even  his daughter was aware of the valuable item in his possession.  Meanwhile, Marie-Laure and her uncle wait for his return. 

Werner proves himself very useful to the German's and is sent on expeditions to scout out anyone resisting the Nazi takeover.  The fact that his passion for and knowledge of these electronic devices were having a direct effect on progress of the war, and ultimately on people's lives, did not escape Werner and, in fact, caused him great conflict. 

Over four years passed and with the end of the Occupation in sight, these two young people from opposite worlds found themselves in the same city wanting the same thing: to return to the life they remembered with the people they love.  

My Thoughts:

Though my synopsis does give a good idea of what this book is about, I left so much out purposefully. It is much deeper and absolutely captivated my attention. I was pulled into Marie-Laure's world of blindness, imagining what it must have been like for her in a strange city with relatives she didn't know, waiting for a father she may never see again. Werner was a boy swept up in a war he didn't undertand simply because he was born German and possessed skills other people needed.

Because I loved it so much, it is difficult for me to review I want to do it justice without saying too much. All I will say is  it is a beautifully layered story with sub-plots that give it depth and a lot of feeling. The characters were perfectly developed and authentic to the time, place, and circumstance. It was an easy book to fall into. 

Audio Review:

Though I'd read where some listeners of this audiobook had trouble keeping up, I didn't have that problem at all. It was all very visual to me, very fluid and completely satisfying. I felt the narrator, Zach Appelman, did a terrific job with his interpretation. I would not hesitate to listen to any of his other performances. 

Whether in book form or audio, I would highly recommend this book to readers who really enjoy historical fiction, particularly the Nazi Occupation of France.  About a year or so ago I began seeing more books on this topic and I find myself drawn to their perspectives. ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE is definitely worth reading. 

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE (Unabridged Audio Version)
Author: Anthony Doerr
Narrator: Zach Appelman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Published: May 2014
Length: 16 hrs 2 mins
Source: Audible

Feb 24, 2015

Publication Announcement!


HAPPY PUBLICATION DAY!!


I am very excited to announce the release of Jeffrey Archer's new book, MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD today, February 24th, by St. Martin's Press!  This is the latest installment in The Clifton Chronicles Series that I have loved since the first book in 2011.  MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD is the fifth book and continues to centers around Bristol residents Harry Clifton, a successful novelist, his wife, Emma, Chairman of the Board of the family ship-building company, and Harry's best friend and brother-in-law, Giles, a politician.  The series also involves a host of other interesting and pivotal characters that make up the beautifully crafted story lines that keep readers like myself hooked.

What I love most about this series is the range of emotions I experience through the character's trials and tribulations. These books have a little bit of everything: family drama, intrigue, suspense, danger and even a tiny bit of romance. But even more appealing is the unexpected humor weaved throughout. Archer's sharp wit and perfect timing are the icing on top of this literary cake. I recall while reading the fourth book, BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR, that in the middle of reading a chapter full of danger and suspense, I was actually laughing out loud at some of the antics going on. The range of emotions in these stories can only be written by a skilled and seasoned writer such as Jeffrey Archer.  That is a shining example of his international success and popularity.

Regular readers of this blog know that I have been singing the praises of this series since it began in 2011 and you would completely understand why after reading it yourself. Though these books are appealing to so many readers but I suspect the more mature reader would appreciate them even more.

I, myself, am reading this book as I post this blog and I will be sharing my thoughts as soon as I finish. Like the others, this installmanet doesn't waste any time getting to the action. It takes up right where book four left off without skipping a beat. I invite and encourage you to take the time to check out this wonderfully British series and get to know the Clifton and Barrington families. They are a real treat!

I'd like to say a special thanks to Jessica and Brittani at St. Martin's Press for supplying me with my digital copy and so kindly accommodating my late request.

OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES
(Click on link for review)

Only Time Will Tell - Book 1 (2011)
The Sins of the Father - Book 2 (2012)
Best Kept Secret - Book 3 (2013)

Feb 1, 2015

The Sunday Salon: Wrap-Up

Is it possible we've blown through January already? Amazing how quickly it goes. Today at the Salon, Here's some of the highlights from last month and what happened last week...

The most viewed post I had on the blog last month was The Sunday Salon: Confession Time. I was inspired by Bryan's post at Still Unfinished where he was talking about the pressures of blogging/reading/reviewing. It really hit home with me. In my post I confessed to caving under my own pressures to read certain books to stay relevant. It was a great discussion and reminded me that this blog is my creative outlet and a way for me to connect with other book people all over the world and the enjoyment I get from that is my reward. 

The most visited book review, with over 60 views, was LILLIAN ON LIFE by Alison Jean Lester. There's a lot of talk about that book and I'm glad I could help spread the word because its worth the time in reading it. 

LAST WEEK . . .

In the Mailbox . . . I received 2 review books. both from St. Martin's Press. THE LAST GOOD PARADISE by Tatjana Soli with a release date of February 10th.  I don't know much about it, but Amazon describes it as "A black comedy set on an island resort, where guests attempting to flee their troubles realize they can't escape who they are." 


The second ARC I received was MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD by Jeffrey Archer being published February 24th.  This is the fifth book in his very popular Clifton Chronicles Series.  I've read every book and I am totally excited for this new addition. This series has everything: family drama, political backlash, danger and intrigue - I just love it! Book four, CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR, had me laughing out loud in places, even though the main plot involved blowing up a new ocean liner filled with guests! Sounds crazy that I found it funny but parts of it really were comical. Supposedly there are going to be only a total of seven books in the series, so we're nearing the end, which makes me sad. But I will then look forward to his new endeavors. But I'm getting ahead of myself!  
On the iPod . . . I mainly listened to my audio book, ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr. I'm a tiny bit past halfway and I am really enjoying the experience. It's 1940's France, with the German Occupation in full swing. I plan to finish it up this week and will have my thoughts later in the week. The one thing I will say at this point is that I understand why so many people loved this book. It has completely sucked me in. 

In the Kitchen . . . I stumbled across the most amazing chocolate cake recipe that just happened to be vegan. I am not a vegan. I'm not even a vegetarian. What I am is a legally blind white girl who lives alone, cannot drive, who was seriously crazing something chocolate but had no eggs and a limited pantry. So I did what any other woman craving chocolate would do: I hit the internet! The recipe I found had 7 basic ingredients that any normal person would have and was so quick and easy to make. The other thing I liked about it was, it made one 8x8 pan, which was perfect for just one person. I didn't want to make a huge cake so this was a plus! It was the moistest cake I think I've ever had. There was even a glaze recipe included but I did use butter in it so It was not vegan, but that really didn't matter to me. I drizzled the cake with the glaze and topped it with crushed pecans and a squirt of Ready Whip. It was exactly what I needed to satisfy my chocolate craving and I didn't have to ask someone to take me to the store and spend money on more ingredients!  I found this recipe on a website called Instructables and you can check it out here

As for today, its all about the Big Game for me. Though I'm hoping to do some raking in the yard early in the day if the wind will cooperate.  Later I'll be making chili cheese nachos to have while I watch the game. I'm not a big fan of either team but I'm less of a Patriots fan so I'll be rooting for the Seahawks. 

How about you? Will you be watching the game or just the commercials? 

Jan 25, 2015

The Sunday Salon: Audios, Readsthons and a Great Find!

Welcome to the Sunday Salon - a great place where we share our bookish thoughts.  Today I'll be talking about my week in review, including a first time National Readathon and a great findI stumbled upon!

With Spring just around the corner, I'm already excited about eating lighter in the warmer weather so I was very excited when I found a cookbook in the Kindle Monthly Deals called 200 SALADS available for just .99! (Originally published in 2012) I love all sorts of salads - fruit, veggie, pasta - you name it and this book certainly has a bunch that I plan to try. The fruit salads especially had my mouth watering. For the price, I just couldn't pass it up! That was my 'find' for the week.


As you may have heard, yesterday was National Readathon Day and there was a readathon taking place from noon to 4 pm. There were basically no rules and was open to anyone. You could follow other readers' progress on social media using the hashtag #timetoread. The book I chose for that time was ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr, however, it was an audio and not a print copy. So here's my question: That still counts, right? Its a fairly long audiobook and I was at the beginning and I thought it would be a great way to put a big dent in it and get me going with the story. I ended up reading for almost three and a half hours and I was pretty happy with that. Sometimes its hard for me to set aside a certain block of time for a readathon when other non-readers in my life stop by or call and need help with something. I feel bad saying, 'Sorry, I'm in a readathon right now and I don't have time for you.' They just wouldn't understand that, so I had to stop several times within that four hour window, but I did make good progress anyway. So far, I'm enjoying the story. Books about the German occupation of France during WWII have really captured my attention, so I'm hopeful I'll like this one.

I also posted my review of a debut novel I received last week from Putnam Books called LILLIAN ON LIFE by Alison Jean Lester. it was a quick read and very different from anything I've read in a long time. It really is a unique book and worth your time in checking out. You can catch my review here, if you like.

As for this coming week, I'll be spending more time on my audio and also getting started with DARK PLACES, an older book by Gillian Flynn. I've heard its really good and I've been trying to make time for it the last few weeks, but I've just been struggling to find time to read. In fact, that is what I'll be reading later today. I'm hoping to get some uninterrupted time with it.


So tell me, what books will be occupying your time in the week ahead?