Linking up with Housewifespice again!
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (Adult). This book is billed as a gripping thriller, great for fans of Gone Girl (presumably the book, and not the horrid movie). For one, this book has a much more empathetic primary narrator in Rachel, who while flawed, is definitely not as acerbic or deranged as Amy of GG. And for another, it’s in reality much less creepy and chilling. Rachel, an unemployed woman distraught from a nasty divorce (kicked out of the house so her ex could move his mistress in, marry her, and give her a child–the one thing Rachel can never have but desperately wanted), rides the commuter rail every day and drinks her sorrows away…every day. Her one delight in this sad existence is making up a story about the couple who now resides in a home on her old street, the backyards of which the train passes and slows down by along its route. But when one day she sees the woman kissing a man who is not her husband, it sets into motion an engrossing mystery about the woman’s eventual disappearance. Though you’re with Rachel for most of the narration, you do get insights into the lives of the other women of the story in their own specifically chosen chapters: Anna, the ex’s new wife, and Megan (the woman on the patio whom Rachel called Jess). As I said in the beginning of this review, Rachel is quite a sad sack, but despite this, I felt for her and rooted for her because Ms. Hawkins drew her to have some inner quality that makes you want to believe her. What’s particularly delicious is that Rachel is intended to be an unreliable narrator, but the big twist is what she’s actually unreliable about. Some readers may see some of the smaller twists coming, and astute readers the really big one at the climax. An excellently constructed book and great read. Catholic codicil: Do characters make poor decisions and face mild (if any) repercussions? Of course. This isn’t from a religious press. But it does portray terrible things as the horrors they are, as well as make you feel how awful adultery is. And even though the characters you like or come to like commit sin, you’re not rooting for them or made to feel as though it’s justified; rather you feel more sympathy for the wronged parties. Oh, and there’s a “devil,” who is quite clearly the bad person…no moral relativisim there. Recommendation: In my unprofessional opinion, adults (maybe mature college seniors) can read it, especially if they like character-driven mystery/thriller.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel by Robin Sloan (mature teen/adult). A delightfully nerdy, if at times slow-paced literary mystery. Clay is the unemployed version of the Everyman. He takes a job working the midnight shift at a quirky bookstore, run by an eccentric owner and funded by some sort of secret society. Full of references to real and fantastical technological developments, as well as an ancient-ish printer and the legacy he may have let behind, the novel amusingly explores the intersection of tech and books. The mystery of the patrons of this store and the secret they wish to uncover (which is even less obvious to astute readers than the secret of the above book) unfolds gradually…almost too gradually. Normally I am able to push myself to finish books, but with this plot, there was no rush. Additionally, the technobabble got to be a leetle much. if you’re easily annoyed at smartphones and the way tech overtakes the current world, this book may not be for you. But it was mildly pleasing entertainment in a book landscape that seems to think you need to be shocked or titillated for it to be “good.” Catholic codicil: The relationship between Clay and Kat is nearly Whovian (maybe not Rose and Ten) in its companionability as they try to solve the puzzle, with only light, references to their actions within. Also, Clay’s best friend character earns a (generous) living designing software that makes a certain female anatomy more optimized. But this is only a tangential plotline. The character and his employees aren’t in it for lust, but you may see it as problematic that they’re profiting off of it. Recommendation: If you can get past those two things, it’s a good enough book if the themes interest you. I would even say sophisticated high school juniors and seniors may appreciate the book, just be sure they’re up on the “rules” about relationships, and why Neel’s business is wrong, not funny.