Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Book Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good? (Summary from Goodreads.com)


They called it the next Gone Girl. To be honest, I haven't read Gone Girl yet. Someone spoiled the ending for me, so it seemed pretty pointless to read it after that. It's still on my TBR (to be read) list, but I'm not really in any hurry to be reading it. Either way, I went into this book expecting a great suspense story, one that would blow me away with it's radical plot twist and take me by surprise. Unfortunately, I expected too much.

I'm not saying that I didn't like it. The Girl on the Train is a good story, a good mystery that I honestly couldn't put down because I desperately wanted to know what had happened to Megan (Jess in Rachel's imagination) and how Rachel was involved in it all. I also wanted to know how Rachel ended up so screwed up as she continued down her path of self-destruction.

But it wasn't great. The book starts slowly and is pretty hard to get into. Once the big disappearance occurs, the story starts to pick up, but you're already at least a quarter way through the book. And the characters aren't very likable. There are several times where you can't decide whether you want to slap Rachel upside the head for her stupidity or hug her because she seriously needs some love and kindness in her life. I mean her old school mate takes her in and provides a shelter over her head, but other than that there's really no one giving her any sort of care or guidance and good God, she needs guidance. She really just needed a good friend - someone who could dry her out, give her advice, and help her realize get over her past and move on.

Once the big reveal hits (no spoilers - I promise), you understand why she doesn't have friends, why she's an alcoholic, and why she could use some continued therapy. I wish I could say that I was surprised by the big plot twist, but I suspected it at the beginning. There are hints all through the slow start of the book that readers probably miss because they're so anxious to get to the good stuff, but it's there if you pay attention.

I did like the way the book ended and that justice prevailed. That always makes me happy. So I would definitely recommend it! It's a good mystery story, and a quick read once you get into it. Just don't expect the biggest, craziest plot twist the world has ever seen.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Book Review: Batgirl, Vol. 1 by Cameron Stewart

Barbara Gordon is no stranger to dusting herself off when disaster strikes, so when a fire destroys everything she owns, she spots the opportunity for a new lease on life – and seizes it! Following the rest of Gotham City’s young adults to the hip border district of Burnside, Barbara sets about building an all-new Batgirl…and discovers new threats preying on her peers! As the new hero of Burnside, Batgirl gets started by facing twin sister assassins on motorcycles! (Summary from Goodreads.com) 

Guys, I read a graphic novel! The whole thing! I'm really bad at reading graphic novels. I like pictures, and I like books that go with pictures, but the action, and the word bubbles confuse me. I get lost and frustrated and tend to give up. I like to use my imagination for those things. So I don't read them often.

The reason I read Batgirl is likely obvious to many of you. Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl) was originally a librarian, so those of us who chose that profession tend to lean toward her as a bit of a role model. We can totally fight crime in the night and recommend books, teach computer classes, and run programs all day. We're freaking superheroes - it's true.

So for that reason, I decided to give Batgirl: The New 52 a try. But unfortunately, I was quickly disappointed for Barbara did not have her Master's in Library Science, but instead was a computer program developer of some sort. She's still pretty bad-a, and it's fun to see her updated, but I found the plot silly and too easily predictable. Give it a try if you like graphic novels. Unfortunately, it's going to take a little more to impress me. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Book Review: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson


Taylor Edwards’ family might not be the closest-knit—everyone is a little too busy and overscheduled—but for the most part, they get along just fine. Then Taylor’s dad gets devastating news, and her parents decide that the family will spend one last summer at their old lake house in the Pocono Mountains.

Crammed into a place much smaller and more rustic than they are used to, they begin to get to know each other again. And Taylor discovers that the people she thought she had left behind haven’t actually gone anywhere. Her former best friend is still around, as is her first boyfriend, and he’s much cuter at 17 than he was at 12.

As the summer progresses and the Edwards become more of a family, they’re more aware than ever that they’re battling a ticking clock. Sometimes, though, there is just enough time to get a second chance—with family, with friends, and with love. (Summary from Goodreads.com)



Long ago - ok, about a year ago - my coworker The Gnoming Librarian recommended that I read one of Morgan Matson's young adult novels. I read Amy and Roger's Epic Detour in March last year in about five hours, and I loved it! It's heartfelt, funny - a really quick read and perfect if you need to find your way out of a reading slump.

After I read Amy and Roger, I was told that I had to read Second Chance Summer because it's just as good. So this past weekend, I took it home with me from the library, and man am I glad I did.

You find out pretty much right away in the story that Taylor's dad is very sick. He's been told he has only a few months left to live and decides that he wants to spend it with his family where they always used to vacation in their lake house in the Poconos.

If you get nothing else from this book (and if you're human you'll get much more), you'll discover that you want to go to the Pocono Mountains. Matson's descriptions make the lake house and it's surroundings seem magical and picturesque - a place to run around carefree, riding your bike with friends, or laying out on the dock to get a tan. And though it's a contemporary novel, it brings back memories of a simpler time, when it was safe to run around town without supervision until you were so tired you dropped.

The story brings back feelings of first love and first friendships, sleepovers, and first heartbreaks. It will make you want to call up those friends from elementary and middle school that you haven't spoken to in ages, but you're really not sure why. And it will definitely make you want to spend time with your family. I will warn you that I cried through the last four chapters of the book. But, you know, sometimes you need to do that. So if you're in need of a good cry or just a good read, go pick up Second Chance Summer. You'll be glad you did.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Valentine's Day: Love Quotes from Books

Happy Valentine's Day! I hope you're able to spend it with someone you love, whether that's your significant other, children, siblings, parents, pets, or friends. Since it's the day to spread the love, I thought I would share some love quotes with you from some of my favorite books!
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 "You're the kind of person I wanna be with when I want to be alone." - Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell

"Do I love you? My god, if your love were a grain of sand, mine would be a universe of beaches." The Princess Bride, William Goldman

"Love, it never dies. It never goes away, it never fades, so long as you hang on to it. Love can make you immortal." - If I Stay, Gayle Forman


"I love you, and I will love you until I die, and if there is a life after that, I'll love you then." - City of Glass, Cassandra Clare
 "His heart is thumpa-thumping there, right under my palm. But he keeps himself a critical centimeter or two away - that tiny space between us is pulsing." Every Word, Ellie Marney

"They ran barefoot over the dunes...the moon turned the white sand to diamond dust...his heartbeat washed through her like the waves, until she didn't know whether the pounding of it was hers of his." - Compulsion, Martina Boone


"In that moment, Blue was a little in love with all of them. Their magic. Their quest. Their awfulness and strangeness. Her raven boys." - The Dream Thieves, Maggie Stiefvater







Friday, February 12, 2016

Friday Fun: My Favorite Musicals

Since the very nice production of Grease LIVE a couple weeks ago, I've been in a musical mood. If you know me at all, you probably know that means I'm singing at every given opportunity and reminiscing over old choir performances and vocal contests.

So, without further ado, I present to you my favorite musicals.

1. A Chorus Line
What I Did for Love was the first song I performed for vocal competition. It's beautiful and makes me cry.

2. My Fair Lady
One of the best movie musicals - Audrey Hepburn and her Cockney accent (I don't care if it's not her singing) The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain. Just you wait 'enry 'iggins, just you wait.

3. West Side Story 
 Romeo, Romeo...wherefore art thou Tony? Romeo and Juliet's tragic story turned into racial conflict between 1950s New York City gangs, complete with ballet dancing and rumbles in the streets = perfection. Plus the song Maria taught me how to find a tritone (augmented 4th interval) in Aural Composition. 

4. The Sound of Music
Julie Andrews. Need I say more? Ok, I can. I'm pretty sure this is the musical that taught me how to sing. Literally, Do-Re-Mi teaches you how to sing. And Christopher Plummer was beautiful. And Edelweiss breaks your heart. When I turned 16, I rewrote the song I am 16 Going on 17. This musical is part of me. 

 5. Hello Dolly
I love Barbra. Everyone loves Walter Matthau. Before the Parade Passes By was my first solo in choir (4th grade spring program called Willkommen).
 6.Les Miserables
Les Mis is beautiful too, but the sad kind of beautiful. If you're looking for a good cry (or want to get angry about politics and class divide), this is a good Friday night choice.

7. The Phantom of the Opera
It's a classic, and I got to meet the phantom when I saw it at the Aronoff in Cincinnati. He got on our school bus and signed my playbill. It was amazing.

 8. Rent
So much can happen in the course of a year. Jonathan Larson was a genius. He pushed limits and exposed the harsh reality of AIDS.

9. Newsies
The Gnoming Librarian and I tried to watch this in the teen room every day this summer. We succeeded in driving the teens crazy and exposing them to new music...and Batman dancing and singing.
 
10. Wicked
Are people born wicked or is wickedness thrust upon them? As obsessions go (of any kind...Harry Potter being Numero Uno), Wicked is in the top 3. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Book Review: The Obsession by Nora Roberts


Naomi Bowes lost her innocence the night she followed her father into the woods. In freeing the girl trapped in the root cellar, Naomi revealed the horrible extent of her father’s crimes and made him infamous.

Now a successful photographer living under the name Naomi Carson, she has found a place that calls to her, thousands of miles away from everything she’s ever known. Naomi wants to embrace the solitude, but the residents of Sunrise Cove keep forcing her to open up—especially the determined Xander Keaton.

Naomi can feel her defenses failing, and knows that the connection her new life offers is something she’s always secretly craved. But as she’s learned time and again, her past is never more than a nightmare away. (Summary from Goodreads)



 It's probably ridiculous how many of Nora Roberts' books I've read. Under the influence of my mom, I've been reading them since I was in middle school. You can judge me all you want, but I think she's a terrific writer. She gets you interested in the story right away, makes you relate to the characters, fall in love with the tall, handsome, sarcastic guy, and raise your blood pressure during the final conflict. It happens, and you care. Every time.

Nora's newest novel, The Obsession, is no exception, but it is exceptional. She reels you in at the beginning of the novel as you meet young Naomi trying to make her father laugh by following him tot he creek at night. When she ends up discovering he has a terrible secret, she makes a quick decision that saves a life (and probably many more) and changes her and her family's futures forever.

As you continue reading you get little glimpses of Naomi's life as she deals with the consequences of her father's crimes. This progression provides all you need to know about Naomi's backstory and character growth, and boy does she grow.

The main part of the story finds Naomi in a small town in Washington state, a professional photographer who has spent the majority of her adult life as a nomad, living out of her car and hotel rooms, taking pictures all over the world. But something about the town and the ocean view has prompted her to spontaneously buy an old house, a house that needs a lot of work. She almost hits a dog on the side of the road and ends up taking him in, although it's definitely not her idea. Little by little she ends up setting down roots. Honestly, this was the only part of the story that I had trouble with. Most of it was needed, but Naomi's daily life got a little repetitive, slowing the pace of the story. I enjoy the sweet, slow romance as she falls in love with the dog, the house, the boy, and the town, but it went on slightly too long.

I knew long before the end who the stalker/serial killer was going to be, and I wish Naomi would have figured it out before the final face off. But I understood the point that he'd made such little effect on her that she had barely remembered him, hadn't even considered him as a possibility. And the scene made me perfectly anxious for the dog, for Xander, and for Naomi. Nora is much more than a cheesy romance novelist. She's brilliant, and if you need proof - it's right here, in this book.





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