Tag Archives: NY Times Best Seller

The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

Review (Amazon): 

EVERY DAY THE SAME
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. 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.

UNTIL TODAY
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 goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

My Review (spoilers):

Executive Summary: pathetic and boring

I have NO IDEA what the hype was all about regarding this book. It is similar to Gone Girl, in that there’s not a single likable character in this book. But Gone Girl was actually interesting, not about a pathetic alcoholic creepily watching people while riding on a train. If I hadn’t been reading it on vacation, I’d have put it in my charity donation box unread.

Rachel, the main character, divorced from her husband 2 years prior after he was caught having an affair with Anne. Rachel moved in with a friend, started drinking heavily, and her train ride into work drives her past her old neighborhood where she had lived with her ex-husband Tom. The train always stopped so that she could look out the window and see one of the houses that was a few doors down from her old house. The couple who lived there had moved in after Rachel moved out, so she didn’t actually know them, but she concocted a story about their happy life.

Eventually Rachel’s drinking gets her fired, but she doesn’t want to tell her roommate, so she just keeps taking the train to and from the area where she worked, and mostly just drank all day. One day instead of seeing the couple outside their house, she sees the woman with another man, kissing.

When that woman goes missing, Rachel feels compelled to help the investigation. She doesn’t feel like the investigators are taking her seriously (she is an alcoholic and because she happened to be in that neighborhood at the same time as Megan went missing but was too drunk to recall anything) so she decides to reach out to the husband herself. It starts as just to try to figure out what had happened the night that she could not remember, and also to tell the husband about the mystery man, who turns out to be the shrink that Megan was seeing. Pathetic Rachel can’t let it go though because it’s really the only thing in her sad life so she keeps going over to visit the husband, but Anne keeps seeing her around the neighborhood and reaches out to the police about it. Tom was “supposed to take care of it” but he obviously hasn’t done so. She keeps calling him at all hours and now she’s hanging around. And to add to Rachel being a pathetic weirdo, she decides that she should also start going to the same shrink that Megan went to so that she can make her own assessment of whether or not he’s a killer.

As Rachel starts regaining some memories of the evening that Megan went missing, she realizes that she saw Tom near the train station, and she sees a woman get into the car. She thinks that it’s Anne, but eventually she realizes that it can’t be Anne because Anne has a baby, and she didn’t have the baby with her, and she wouldn’t have left the baby at home. So she realizes that it wasn’t Anne getting into the car, it was Megan.

She goes over to Anne’s to tell Anne that she and the baby need to leave! Anne doesn’t really believe her, but then Tom shows up. He tells Anne and the baby to go upstairs which they do, and he tells Anne how sorry that he is and that he was only sleeping with Megan when Anne was tied up with the baby. Anne realizes that Tom is just a shady person and has been using all the women he’s been with and telling them lies of his family, his military service, among other things. So once she puts the baby up, she goes back downstairs to find Rachel stab Tom in the neck with a corkscrew. Anne helps to push it in, and when the investigators come by, they have a perfect self-defense story.

Verdict: 2.5 stars

This book was so boring. It felt like a terrible reality TV show. All of the characters were pathetic and dull, and the story itself wasn’t any better. When I was at the beach, a woman asked me whether I’d recommend the book (because she like probably everyone else has heard of it), and I said definitely no. Another woman who was nearby gushed about how much she liked it, but she said that the movie was not worth seeing. Not that I was planning on it, but good to know. Even for a beach read, this book was mediocre.

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Innocence – Dean Koontz

photo (1)Book Description (Amazon):

In Innocence, Dean Koontz blends mystery, suspense, and acute insight into the human soul in a masterfully told tale that will resonate with readers forever.

He lives in solitude beneath the city, an exile from society, which will destroy him if he is ever seen.

She dwells in seclusion, a fugitive from enemies who will do her harm if she is ever found.

But the bond between them runs deeper than the tragedies that have scarred their lives. Something more than chance—and nothing less than destiny—has brought them together in a world whose hour of reckoning is fast approaching.

My Review (Spoilers):

Executive Summary: weird

I have never read a Dean Koontz book before, and it seems like this might not have been a good one to start with. This was our “New York Times Best Seller” for the year (which essentially balances our classic). I had no idea where this book was going for most of the book, and when the ending finally happened, I was sorely disappointed.

The story begins with Addison, possibly human, who lives alone after “Father” has died. I say possibly human because there’s something different about him that makes people fear and attack him. A disfigurement perhaps but what sort of disfigurement would cause people to do that?

Addison lives in some sort of bomb shelter of sorts–a secret home below the city. He was born and lived his early life in the country with his natural mother (his father was worthless and left her before he was born). When he was born, the midwife tried to kill him, but his mother pulled a gun on her. Addison’s mother tried very hard to love him, but she spent less and less time with him as he aged (and also spent more time with drugs and alcohol). Luckily he was a mature child as she told him to leave the home at age 8 and then she subsequently killed herself. Ouch.

He found his way into the city where he luckily came across “Father”, another like him in the midst of a fight. Father showed him some of the lays of the land including welcoming Addison into his home (where he had been welcomed in by another many years before). They lived in relative peace until an accident involving some police officers led to Father’s death. (This is technically where the story begins. Addison’s history was pieced together throughout the story with awkward flashback chapters).

Addison, now 26, is in the library one night after hours (he knows when/how to enter buildings at night so he won’t be seen or caught) and there is a girl in there as well. She is being hunted by a man but manages to evade him. Addison knows the library well and seeks her out of her hiding spot after the man has left. Her name is Gwyneth and she is dressed like a goth. She’s 18 and has a similar social anxiety to Addison. Addison hates to be looked at, whereas Gwyneth hates to be touched.

They become friends seemingly out of necessity. Gwyneth’s mother died in childbirth and was raised by her loving father until he was poisoned to death by the man who had been chasing her in the library. She lived alone after that, moving between a series of apartments that her father set up for her.

The book continues in an overly descriptive manner but honestly nothing really happens. They spend their time trying to avoid Ryan Telford (the man from the museum) who is hunting them. In the end, Telford tracks down the mysterious secret girl who Gwyneth has been hiding and kills her guardians. Addison and Gwyneth appear in time before the girl is killed, and they find that Telford is dying due to some genetically engineered Ebola+flesh eating bacteria. They take the girl back to Teague Hanlon’s. Teague had been her guardian since her father died, and it is revealed that he is also the priest who allowed Father, and then Addison, to shop in the food pantry and thrift store after hours.

It turns out that Gwyneth and the young girl whose name is Moriah are both the same as Addison. And it isn’t that they are disfigured; it is that they are devoid of the original sin. The reason people fear and resent them is that when they are looked upon, people see all their sins revealed to them which makes them very angry.

So then Addison and Gwyneth get married. They take Moriah and three other children, given to them by “the clears” who presumably are angels and they leave and go to the country while everyone else dies from the plague. The end.

No, I’m serious. That’s how it ends.

Verdict: 2.5 stars

This book was so strange, and not in a good way. The entire middle 80% or so of the book was nearly impossible to get through, and in the end, the plot lines that occurred during that section didn’t matter anyway because everyone died. In addition to that, this book actually had potential to be a good religious novel, but not by killing off all the “regular humans” (because, we as readers would fall into the “regular human” category even those of us who aren’t pedophiles (there was an unusual attraction to that particular sin in this book)). The characters in the book who were perfect already did not attempt to help any of the “normal” humans either physically or by teaching them how to be better people. This paints a pretty bleak picture that unless you are born without sin (which is no one) you cannot be saved. Yikes.

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The Time Keeper – Mitch Albom

photoBook Description (Amazon): In Mitch Albom’s newest work of fiction, the inventor of the world’s first clock is punished for trying to measure God’s greatest gift. He is banished to a cave for centuries and forced to listen to the voices of all who come after him seeking more days, more years.

Eventually, with his soul nearly broken, Father Time is granted his freedom, along with a magical hourglass and a mission: a chance to redeem himself by teaching two earthly people the true meaning of time.

He returns to our world–now dominated by the hour-counting he so innocently began–and commences a journey with two unlikely partners: one a teenage girl who is about to give up on life, the other a wealthy old businessman who wants to live forever. To save himself, he must save them both. And stop the world to do so.

Told in Albom’s signature spare, evocative prose, this remarkably original tale will inspire readers everywhere to reconsider their own notions of time, how they spend it, and how precious it truly is.

My Review (Spoilers!):

Executive Summary: refreshing

So this was my choice for book club this year. My category that I was to pick a book from was “recent New York best seller”. I don’t really follow the books that are on that list, so it was kind of a weird category for me. I looked for something out of 2012 (we pick books at the end of the previous year), but I didn’t realize how much of the NY Times Best Seller list was “beach reads”. I guess it makes sense but I would have a hard time picking a Janet Evanovich or John Grisham novel for book club. So I eventually settled on The Time Keeper. I hadn’t read any of Albom’s other books but I had heard good things about them, and the plot of this book sounded interesting. It was.

The prologue introduces the reader to Father Time in his cave listening to the voices of the people on Earth who all want time–specifically Sarah Lemon who wishes that time would move faster and Victor Delamonte who wishes that he had more time.

The main part of the book begins meeting three children–Dor, Alli, and Nim. Dor is the first human on earth to begin counting.
Then we find out more about Sarah Lemon–a teenager waiting for a date.
And then Victor Delamonte–a rich man who has just returned from the doctor with obviously bad news.

The book continues in this pattern of telling all stories nearly simultaneously. I am not fully going to split the story that way because I think it will be too confusing. (I’m not a professional author after all). 

The three children continue to grow. Nim becomes strong and helps his father who is a builder while Dor continues to count each and every thing eventually measuring days. Eventually Dor and Alli get married and have children. Nim has become a king, and with his importance is building a tower to the sky so that he can defeat the gods and rule over all (a la Tower of Babel). He asks Dor for help. Dor explains what he has learned but tells Nim that he will not help with the tower. Nim says that Dor will be imprisoned in the tower like the other dissenters. Dor and Alli decide to leave and live somewhere they can’t be found when Alli becomes sick after encountering some sick visitors. Dor becomes understandably angry and asks the gods for help. He decides to run back to the city, climb Nim’s tower, and make time stop. As Dor runs up the tower, it begins to crumble, but he is somehow lifted into a cave and saved.

When he awakes he sees an old man (unclear whether this is God or Father Time #1 or who exactly. The book says it’s “His servant”). The old man explains that Dor must begin to understand the consequences of counting every moment and then the old man disappears.

As Dor remains in the cave, he hears the voices of all the people in the world asking for more time, another day, etc., while he is stuck in a place where time doesn’t exist. After an unknown period of time, when the stalactite and stalagmite (heaven and earth) in the cave meet, the old man returns.  Dor must go to earth and find two souls on earth–one who wants too much time and one who wants too little time–and he must teach them about what he has learned over all the years. It is pretty obvious who he is going to pick.

Sarah and her mom have issues. Her parents are divorced. Her mom is trying to reach Sarah but doesn’t really know how. Sarah is described as a studious girl, unpopular and somewhat unattractive and overweight. She also has no friends (which strikes me as really weird. who has NO friends? Even the “unpopular” kids had friends. It’s weird.) She decides to begin volunteering at a soup kitchen to help bolster her résumé for college. There she meets this cool popular boy, Ethan, who agrees to meet her for a date. He predictably blows her off last minute, and she begins counting the time until she can see him again.

Vincent is an important fellow. He has cancer but wants immortality. He is in a marriage with a woman Grace and the spark there is all but gone. He doesn’t tell her about his plan to cryogenically freeze his body just before he dies so that he can be revitalized sometime in the future when science can fix him so he can continue to live. Vincent and his lawyers make all the important decisions to ensure that his estate is settled and that he will go to the cryogenics facility.

So Dor decides to wander around playing with his hourglass–speeding up time and then slowing it down. He takes a job at a watch shop while he determines which two souls to save.

Stupidly Sarah decides to push for another date with Ethan. The date is drinking vodka in his uncle’s warehouse and awkwardly kissing while Ethan tries for more. Instead of realizing that this is a lost cause, she decides that she is going to buy him a Christmas present–a watch of course.

Victor decides that he should buy himself a watch that will be stopped at the exact moment he is frozen. He obviously ends up at the watch shop as well.

Dor finds them each the perfect watch and knows that he has found the two souls that he needs.

Sarah finds that Ethan has said mean things about her on Facebook (and that others have chimed in with other mean things). She cannot possibly go on so she decides to commit suicide by suffocating in the running car.

Victor sends Grace off to the charity dinner and in the mean time, he heads to the facility to be frozen.

Just as they are both about to die, Dor saves them and takes them to a place of no time. Like the ghost of Christmas Future, he shows them what their futures will be if they continue down their paths. Sarah’s mom will be sad. Some guy she never noticed at the soup kitchen will miss her. (Pretty weak there but let’s go with it for the time being.) Vincent sees his wife and her pain of the secrecy and the fact that she will never have solace.  He sees his future where he is awakened in a world where people have endless time. The laws and regulations that he had initially agreed to have all but vanished. His body is partially revived as a freak show relic where his memories and dreams are broadcast for people to view. He is obviously aghast by this. Since both Sarah and Vincent viewed each other’s futures as well as their own, they have drawn a closer bond.

Dor’s task is now complete. He drops to the ground and Vincent and Sarah pull together to return him to the old man. (It’s not exactly clear how they figured out how to do that.) The old man restores Dor to his old life and he returns to Alli. He doesn’t count the time, just stays with her until they become one with the universe.

In the epilogue, Sarah is taken to the hospital after managing to call 911. Victor tells his lawyer the safe word, and he reunites with Grace (his safe word is Grace <3). Sarah goes on to cure the cancer that Victor died from after he paid for her tuition to a very good university. He had only lived a few months after the encounter with Dor but they were happy. Everything has a warm happy ending.

Verdict: 3.5 stars

I liked this book., but I wanted more. I would have found it interesting to follow multiple people initially and then focus specifically on the two lost souls. I can certainly think of more stories of people in my own life who would have reiterated the point of the novel well. I also thought Sarah’s story was predictable, weak and unrealistic. Even smart kids have friends! I also found the writing style to be a bit tedious at time. 3 paragraphs at a time about each character can get really jumpy.

I did like that this book was different in terms of the style. We don’t read a lot of fables in our book club, so I think it was a bit refreshing. And of course, I found the underlying message to be good. Value the time that you have. Live in the moment and make the most of each and every moment that you have. I think that those are good mottos to try to live by especially in this busy world.

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