The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

This is by far one of the most popular books published in the last year. With the insurgence and popularity of twisted thrillers and mysteries, like Gone Girl, it’s no surprise that this novel has received a substantial amount of attention.

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4/5 stars.
Read from June 16 to 25, 2015.
Paperback, 316 pages.

This is by far one of the most popular books published in the last year. With the insurgence and popularity of twisted thrillers and mysteries, like Gone Girl,  it’s no surprise that this novel has received a substantial amount of attention.

Rachel takes same train every morning and every evening. Wondering what goes on in the houses she passes everyday Rachel fixates on a couple that she often sees and envisions what their lives must be like, which is obviously much better than the life she is leading. The house she watches is right beside the home she use to live in where she was happily married. That is until she found out that her husband Tom was cheating on her with another woman. That woman, Anna, is now living in that same house with their new born baby. Rachel has not been able to move past the split and drinks heavily. Rachel’s drab life takes a curious turn when the couple she has been watching from the train suddenly becomes the focus of a police investigation as the woman has gone missing. Trying to piece together what may have happened, Rachel gets a bit too involved in the case and uncovers some horrifying truths.

Rachel’s life is unbearable and miserable and as a reader, you get to slowly unfold the events in her life that brought her to her current state. It’s tragic. You’ll also get frustrated with the poor choices that Rachel continues to make in her life. However, despite her sadness, her story is extremely compelling; the novel slowly releases set segments of Rachel’s life in which you are pressed to read on just to find out what happened to her and what goes on during the nights she has had too much to drink. In addition to Rachel’s problems, the additional driving forces of this book are the other characters. As you get to know Anna, Tom, and the couple, you are just as enthralled with their own unique lives and how they interact with Rachel.

This book really shows that not everything is as it seems. Especially with people. That appearances are deceiving and that even the most loving couple has their secrets and troubles.

The ending was one hell of a surprise and was successful in stumping me completely. All I will say about the ending is that it’s extremely satisfying and that readers will not be disappointed. In terms of recommendations, mystery lovers should definitely take a look at this book but I would also say that anyone who is a fan of Gillian Flynn and her books (Gone Girl, Dark Places, Sharp Objects) will definitely take pleasure in reading this novel as it has the same dark vibe and feel and her novels.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

In case you didn’t notice, I’ve changed my weekly posts to Wednesdays from Mondays. It just works out better for my schedule and who doesn’t want more hump day posts right?! Oh, and Happy Canada Day! Alrighty, moving on.

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“You see, but you do not observe.”

3/5 stars.
ebook, 282 pages.
Read from May 27 to June 05, 2015.

Alright, don’t hate me, but this is the very first piece of work that I’ve EVER read by Sir Author Conan Doyle. I’ve been exposed to his work in a variety of other mediums (mostly movies) but this is the first time I’ve ever endeavored with the original. I’m actually surprised how well the latest Hollywood movies with Robert Downey Jr. captured Sherlock and Watson’s characters practically perfectly. I mean, the movies are  by far more action packed but the overall feel that comes from the books is still there.

What surprised me about this book the most was its format. I had no idea that the book was written in a string of short stories. The stories are in chronological order but they are separated by each case that Sherlock and Watson take. Like the most recent movies, the whole book is also narrated by Watson. Sherlock, while not actually a detective, he is respected by the police and has a substantial reputation and attracts a variety of reputable clients. Not that it matters to Sherlock, it’s all about the intrigue of their case. From the King of Bohemia, Dukes, ladies in distress, and prominent business men, they’re all looking for Sherlock’s help to solve their strange and particular problems. From issues of scandal and reputation, to stories of curiosity and love.

In terms of the most curious plot, that title would have to go to The Red-Headed League. A gentleman, with flaming red hair inquires Sherlock to investigate a special league for red headed men to which he has recently taken up employment with. The work itself requires him to write out portions of an encyclopedia and the gentleman finds the whole situation to be very suspicious. The result of this story is rather amusing.  However my favourite story is the one the book opens with, A Scandal in Bohemia, in which the King of Bohemia is requiring Sherlock to recover a photograph from one of his previous lovers in order to avoid scandal before he is married to someone else. Admittedly I liked this story the best because Sherlock gets out witted by a woman! This woman becomes the infamous Irene Adler:

“To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind. He was, I take it, the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen…. And yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.”

Having Sherlock fail from time to time also makes his stories easier to read and comprehend as while Sherlock is a genius, his rare failures still show us that he is still human.

Admittedly, Sir Arthur is a pretty decent mystery writer. I found myself thinking that I knew the outcome to story and how the mystery was going to be unraveled, only to be to be fooled at the end. Some of the stories are almost a but overkill in their complexity but are still great reads. I actually really enjoyed the short story format and found it really appropriate for the book. Watson is able to tie the cases together nicely as well by adding a few tidbits about his personal life and his close relationship with infamous but curious Sherlock Holmes.

Sir Author has created some fascinating characters that are very memorable. This book is witty, humorous and overall entertaining. I think that this book would appeal to wide range of readers, from mystery lovers to young adults.  I look forward to working my way through Sir Author’s entire collection on Sherlock Holmes.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

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4/5 stars.
ebook, 272 pages.
Read from April 10 to 18, 2015.

I have successfully read all 3 of Gillian Flynn’s popular novels. At then end of this review I will rank the three of them based on which of the three I like best.

Camille is a small time reporter in Chicago, with the hopes of hitting it big time. She is ambitious, blunt and abrasive, all great qualities for a reporter. However, she throws herself into work and into drink to stop from reminding herself of her estranged childhood and trauma. You start notice that Camille is plagued with scars of self-mutilation and her body is covered in words that she has carved into her own body. This behavior began in her teenage years and while she has since stopped cutting, she begins to reminisce when she is asked to report on the murders of some children back in her hometown, Wind Gap, a place she hasn’t been back to visit in eight years.  When Camille was a preteen, she lost her sister Marion, to a strange illness. Marion was her mother’s favorite and Camille never received the same attention or love the way her sister did. If anything, her mother had more disdain for her in that she wasn’t a feminine and and well-to-do little girl like Marion. Camille was always headstrong and never did what she was told and perhaps some of her mother’s disdain for her came from the fact that her father did not stick around. Her mother, Adora, is cold, proper, re-married and still living in the Victorian home that Camille grew up in. Camille’s mother has another child in her new marriage to dote on, Camille’s half-sister Amma, who is only thirteen. Amma seems to be the doting daughter that Amma always wanted but she is a vicious but smart young girl.  At least, Camille and Amma have one thing in common, they are both always living in the shadow of the dead Marion. Wind Gap is the type of town Camille was always anxious to get out of, a town where everyone knows everyone’s business and relationships are superficial so returning home, even temporarily was exceptionally difficult for Camille.

Camille learns that two young girls went missing and were found murdered, but something doesn’t quite add up as both of the young victims had all of their teeth removed and were unmolested.   She is able to get some extra information by liaising with a young and good looking FBI agent, Richard. Slowly, Camille starts to open herself up and begins a sexual relationship with Richard, however always fearing that he will reject her for her scars, she also starts to get quite close to Amma. This closeness unfortunately is going to blow the whole murder case wide open and Camille will learn things that she wished she had not.

It was Camille that made this novel for me. While I’ve never self-mutilated I felt drawn in to her scars and her desire to cover them and hide. It reminded me of my worst years with dermatillomania.  I just felt like I completely understood Camille and could relate to her entirely regardless of our different circumstances. I liked her tough approach to her life and even how she dealt with it. I appreciated that she had vulnerable moments in the book despite her facade. What Camille has lived through, what she has done to herself and what her family continues to do her to her is beyond tragic. She is not a typical protagonist by any means and I love her for it. I imagine that this novel made some people uncomfortable with its content. Here is Camille who is clearly a traumatized adult and hides nothing  from the reader in terms of her desire to cut words into herself, then Amma’s behavior is pretty hard to stomach at times,  let alone the way the two young girls in this small town were murdered, which, is why I love this plot. It’s unwholesome, brutal and honest. Flynn is never afraid to shed light into the darker areas of life and show that not all stories have a happy endings.

Alright, in terms of Flynn’s novels, here is how I would rank them:

1) Dark Places

2) Sharp Objects

3) Gone Girl 

I’ll just say this, it’s apparent that Gone Girl  was the favourite for most people, it was also the one made into a movie,  perhaps because more people felt they could relate to the crazy spouse?  I do know know that the other two books are a lot darker. Personally, I feel that Gone Girl is lacking. I appreciate the wit it took to create the plot but I felt it didn’t have the same dark and mysterious appeal as the other two novels. I mean, the crazy spouse thing has been in a lot of mystery novels, though not quite the same way Flynn does it, so I can appreciate that, but I just found that I never came to like the main characters in Gone Girl. I remember not initially liking Libby in Dark Places but I found as a reader, I grew with her through the story. Libby didn’t even like herself in the beginning as the only thing she defined herself by was the horrible murders that happened to her family. I was hoping that I would eventually come to like the couple in Gone Girl and I never did so inevitably I didn’t care what happened to these awful people, regardless of the twisted circumstances they found themselves in. Sharp Objects brought back the same obscure darkness I came to love in Dark Places.