Review: The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins (and #Giveaway)


girlTour update: And the Black Diamond tour continues today with a spotlight at Illuminite Caliginosus—spotlight means there’s nothing new to read, just a blurb, but you can enter again for the tour prizes.

I’m also over at the Writerspace blog today, talking about why I think wildlife enforcement agents—i.e., game wardens—make interesting heroes and heroines for suspense novels.

So—gasp!—I have a book review today. I usually call my reviews “drive-bys” because they are my snippets of impressions, not any great exploration of themes. My degree is in Victorian literature, by the way—did enough of those long explorations to last a lifetime.

Since I don’t have any of my own, I decided to read a bestseller, one that has sat atop the NYT list for a year or two and has its own movie (which I also haven’t seen, since the last movie I went to was…are you seated…. “Lincoln.” Yes, that’s just sad.)

The book I chose was The Girl on the Train, a debut novel by Paula Hawkins. It’s supposedly the type of book publishers are clamoring for right now. And my opinions are…a mixed bag.

THE GOOD: It had enough foreshadowing in the early chapters to keep me reading, which is not always the case. I found myself thinking about it. It’s pretty easy to figure out what happened and, eventually, whodunit, but not how it would exactly play out in the end. So as a suspense, it worked reasonably well (see THE BAD, below). I thought the structure of the book, essentially told from three women’s points of view in shifting time periods and with each entry reflecting a morning and evening (to match the morning and evening train rides of the main character, Rachel), was clever. The premise, for anyone who’s ever seen the Hitchcock film “Rear Window,” is a good one—the story of the voyeur who becomes part of the story/drama/crime he or she is watching and imagining. It was a nice twist to have Rachel, who has a serious drinking problem, have blacked out the night in question and spends much of the book recovering the memories that will help her put together the missing pieces to the mystery.

THE BAD: The pacing of the book bothered me, although I eventually settled into its rhythm and it managed to never lose me altogether. It starts out intriguing, settles into blah blah blah blah blah, and, when it finally reached a conclusion it felt rushed. There were a couple of characters, particularly one red-haired man, that I just didn’t see the need for. He wasn’t used as a red herring, or at least not very convincingly, so his only reason to exist was the same as Rachel’s roommate Cathy: to point out what out-of-control miserable Rachel’s life has become, which leads me to….

THE UGLY: These are not nice characters. I did feel sorry for Rachel for a while. I felt sorry for Anna for a while. I felt sorry for Megan for a while—these are the three women whose stories are told and interwoven. Problem is, pity eventually needs to turn into empathy and heroism. We need to pull for someone. In all three of these cases, pity turned to dislike because, well, these are not nice people. The men in the book don’t fare much better—they’re cheaters, abusive, and/or unethical (those are your choices). I guess Anna’s baby is the sympathetic character but she’s not enough.

I’d rate The Girl on the Train a reluctant 4 Gators—it would’ve been an enthusiastic 4 if I’d liked at least one of the characters and 4.5 if I’d liked the characters and if the middle had moved faster. Even at a reluctant 4 Gators, though, it was an interesting read and it WAS suspenseful.

THE GIVEAWAY: Have you read The Girl on the Train (or seen the movie)? Leave a comment to win a copy!

Oct 22-29-New In Paranormal, UF and Fantasy–#Win Your Choice

First off, I’m being interviewed over at Ramblings of a Coffee-Addicted Writer today, where I talk about which of the Wilds of the Bayou/Black Diamond characters is most like me. LOL. The answer might surprise you…or not?

In the meantime, here are the books coming out this week that looked most promising to me,  which means it’s an eclectic list and avoids such categories as hard sci fi and erotica and most YA, none of which I normally read. I did something out of character for me last week and a) read a whole book and b) read a book way outside my normal genres from the bestseller list. So look for my review of Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train tomorrow.

In the meantime, let me know which of these sounds most promising to you, and you could win it—or another book of your choice!

allisonA Plague of Wizards (Senta and the Steel Dragon #8), by Wesley Allison, Oct. 28. Senta Bly, the most powerful sorceress in the world has disappeared and no one knows where or why. What happens to Port Dechantagne and Birmisia without her protection for four years? Wizards with all sorts of their own agendas descend on the colony, and the citizens must cope the best they can. Nineteen-year-old Iolana Staff lives the life of a famous author, far away in the capital city, but how does her friend Esther, the only Birmisian lizzie on the continent deal with human society? Meanwhile Iolana’s cousin Terra has made the journey to the lizzie city of Yessonarah, to learn what living in the palace of a reptilian king is really like.

kahlerBlack Ice Burning (Pale Queen #3), by A.R. Kahler, Oct. 25, 47North. The Summer Kingdom has fallen to the Pale Queen, and it’s Claire’s fault. The Winter Kingdom faces destruction, and it’s her fault. Her mother is dead. Everything is her fault. Once the designated assassin for Queen Mab, Claire is now nothing more than a humiliated mortal, haunted by her own failures. Abandoned by her former allies and stripped of her magic, Claire is banished to the Immortal Circus. In place of this once-vibrant show now stands an empty husk. Performers who should be tethered to it for eternity are leaving, negating Winter’s last hold on the Dream. Someone is targeting Winter’s power by weakening its contracts—even Claire’s own. And it’s not hard to guess who’s behind it. Power or no power, contract or no contract, Claire has an obligation to uphold. And with the fate of the worlds hanging in the balance, she takes on the hit she knows will be her last: the Pale Queen.

harperBurned: Reckless Desires (Dragon Mates #3), by J.K. Harper, Oct. 24, Sable Moon. Permanently scarred fire dragon shifter Ash Connolly hides his ugly burns from the world. Once a drop-dead sexy ladykiller, now he’s a recluse. Especially from the only woman in the world whose touch he still craves. The one who ran from him the same night Ash was attacked and left for dead by another dragon: her own ruthless father. Half-human, half-dragon Lyra Kerberos is a failed shifter. She can’t shift to save her life. When her scheming father tricked her into betraying Ash, then attacked him to steal his treasure hoard, Lyra did what any terrified coward would. She fled the dragon shifter world–and Ash. But now Lyra’s sister is getting married, and Lyra has to come home for the wedding. Where she finally will face Ash, the only man she has ever loved. Ash, the one who will never forgive her for ruining him. Ash, the only one who can save Lyra’s life as her past abruptly returns to wreak deadly vengeance on her and destroy Ash…this time, for good.

garciaCertain Dark Things, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Oct. 25, Thomas Dunne. Welcome to Mexico City… An Oasis In A Sea Of Vampires… Domingo, a lonely garbage-collecting street kid, is busy eking out a living when a jaded vampire on the run swoops into his life. Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, must feast on the young to survive and Domingo looks especially tasty. Smart, beautiful, and dangerous, Atl needs to escape to South America, far from the rival narco-vampire clan pursuing her. Domingo is smitten. Her plan doesn’t include developing any real attachment to Domingo. Hell, the only living creature she loves is her trusty Doberman. Little by little, Atl finds herself warming up to the scrappy young man and his effervescent charm. And then there’s Ana, a cop who suddenly finds herself following a trail of corpses and winds up smack in the middle of vampire gang rivalries. Vampires, humans, cops, and gangsters collide in the dark streets of Mexico City. Do Atl and Domingo even stand a chance of making it out alive?

crossDragon Heartstring: A Vale of Stars Prequel, by Juliette Cross, Oct. 25. Demetrius Cade has long since let go of his prejudice against Morgonkind, the dragon hybrid race his father taught him to hate. But what he never saw coming was the Morgon woman who would finally teach him to love.  Shakara Icewing has watched Demetrius Cade from afar for years. Known as the most eligible bachelor and emotionally unavailable in all of Gladium Province, she sees him as the aloof, arrogant brother of her dear friend. But when they finally meet, she isn’t sure she can handle how deep and how fast they both fall. An old enemy resurfaces and once more threatens those Demetrius loves. When Shakara plans to speak before Parliament against business tycoon Aron Grayson, she puts her own life in the line of fire. Demetrius will stop at nothing to protect the woman he can no longer live without.

mcintoshFaller, by Will McIntosh, Oct. 25, Tor. Day One. No one can remember anything–who they are, family and friends, or even how to read. Reality has fragmented and Earth consists of an islands of rock floating in an endless sky. Food, water, electricity–gone, except for what people can find, and they can’t find much. Faller’s pockets contain tantalizing clues: a photo of himself and a woman he can’t remember, a toy solider with a parachute, and a mysterious map drawn in blood. With only these materials as a guide, he makes a leap of faith from the edge of the world to find the woman and set things right. He encounters other floating islands, impossible replicas of himself and others, and learns that one man hates him enough to take revenge for actions Faller can’t even remember.

coleFaster (The Warding #2), by Robin L. Cole, Oct. 25. Caitlin Moore thought finding the Secret Keeper would make all her problems go away.  Not so much. She can no longer deny the fae blood running through her veins but coming to grips with her new life as a Warder who is immune to the Gifts of other fae is the least of her worries. Kaine and Co. are still stuck in Riverview and she’d love nothing more than to get him out of her life once and for all.  The plan should be easy: find the key, use it to break the banishment spell, and send them on their way across the Veil to stop the mad High King. Only things are never so simple when the fae are involved. To key they need is an ancient sword long thought to be a myth. Even worse? They will need to use it to summon the Morrigan, a powerful goddess, and beg her to break the spell.  Caitlin and Gannon, her teacher and fellow hunter, race to find the sword but she finds herself confronted by new dangers at every turn. She must make the impossible choice between righting the wrongs of her past or fulfilling her promise to see Kaine home—no matter the cost.

salvatoreHero (Homecoming #3), by R.A. Salvatore, Oct. 25, Wizards of the Coast. Something akin to “peace” has come to the Underdark. The demon hordes have receded, and now the matron mothers argue over the fate of Drizzt Do’Urden. Even so, it becomes clear to one matriarch after another that while the renegade drow may come and go Menzoberranzan, the City of Spiders will crawl forever on. And so Drizzt is free to return to his home on the surface once again. Scores are settled as lives are cut short, yet other lives move on. For the lone drow there is only a single final quest: a search for peace, for family, for home—for the future. Hero picks up where Maestro left off, in a sweeping climax to an epic tale.

halloranHoly Smoke (Supernatural Bounty Hunter Files #8), by Craig Halloran, Oct. 28. Smoke and Sid have a tough choice to make, do they aid the vampire shifter, Vormus, or cut him loose to the fiends that spawned him. Their efforts take them down into an even deeper well of lies that The Drake weaves so well. The closer Smoke and Sid get to the truth, the more their relationship is tested. Megan and Allison resurface. Reginald the doppleganger is back up to his old games. Kane’s musing’s with Sid is far from over.  Who will stop them? Will Smoke and Sid even last?

polanskyMeat+Drink: a Original, by Daniel Polansky, Oct. 26, Tor. Baltimore isn’t safe. Not even for the predatory meat that stalks its nights. Searching for victims who won’t be missed, meat doesn’t feel regret or pain–only thirst. But the meat remembers something more… doesn’t it? is there more to eternal life than finding another drink?

edwardsPromise the Moon (Lorimar Pack #1), by Hailey Edwards, Oct. 29. War is a constant threat on Dell Preston’s horizon. As beta of the Lorimar pack, her job is to maintain the peace on the new border between Faerie and Earth at all costs. Even if that means playing nice with her ex, Isaac, the fae who savaged her wolf’s soul, and Enzo Garza, the flirty witch who ought to be focused on building up their magical defenses instead of tearing down the walls around Dell’s heart. Butler, Tennessee, is a pinprick on the map with a diverse population of supernaturals. It’s also chockful of humans who are unaware of the magical rift bruising the sky or the otherworldly insurgents raining down into their zip code.  A local fae’s disappearance catches Dell’s attention, but she dismisses it as an isolated event. Until it happens again. Unable to ignore the strange happenings in her town, she begins an investigation that uncovers so much more than a simple rash of kidnappings.  Now Dell finds herself at the sharp end of a pointed ultimatum. Find the missing and return them to their families or get ready for prime time. Botch this job, and forget coming soon. The war will become tomorrow’s featured attraction instead. holmbergRise of the Elder (Dark Ability #7), by D.K. Holmberg, Oct. 26, ASH. Forced into the heart of the Aisl Forest, Rsiran and the guilds regroup and try to find a way to reclaim the city from Venass and the Elvraeth council. Rsiran has stopped the production of shadowsteel, but Venass still possess dangerous weapons, and what’s more, one of the great crystals remains missing.  Forced into an alliance with the mysterious Carth in order to find the crystal, they make new allies and discover the means to reclaim the city, but will it be too late? With one of the Elder Trees already gone, recovering the crystal is the key to stopping Venass for good, but as they approach the final battle, Venass proves even more powerful than they ever imagined. The final novel in The Dark Ability series.

owenSeneca’s Faith (Shadowcat Nation #4), by Abigail Owen, Oct. 26, Wild Rose Press. The Delaney Dare needs a new leader—one from outside, after their own Alpha’s actions led to the shifter war. Gage McAvoy has agreed to marry one of the previous Alpha’s daughters and try to keep the dare from falling apart. Unfortunately, the daughter he’s agreed to marry is not the one he wants.  Seneca Delaney is a known latent, unable to shift. She’s remained in her dare, enduring rejection and isolation all her life, even from her own father, because she had no other place to go. Standing on the sidelines yet again while Gage marries her older sister is the last thing she wants to do. Then circumstance throws her together with the one man she can’t have, trying to save a nation of shifters who don’t want her, and risking the exposure of lifelong secrets that could result not only in her death, but in Gage’s.

ruschThe Falls (Diving Series #5), by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Oct. 25, WMG. Fleet sector bases close as the Fleet moves on. Everyone knows and expects it. But still, the announcement that Sector Base E-2 will close—although still thirty years in the future—breeds a mood of tension and anxiety.  So, when Rajivk Agwu finds two pairs of shoes on a trail near Fiskett Falls, but no sign of their occupants, his already heightened senses warn of danger.  Those on the base fare no better. Bristol Iannazzi, working on the notoriously delicate anacapa drive for a runabout, also notices something strange, something out of place, something dangerous…

wendigThe Forever Endeavor, by Chuck Wendig, Oct. 25, Fireside. Dale Gilooly has a problem. Well, Dale has a lot of problems. Addiction. Rent. A girlfriend he let slip away. But Dale has a solution. It’s a Box. And it will let him go back 10 minutes in time. Enough to fix his new mistakes as they happen. And give him an edge to fix the old ones that haunt him. Oh, and one other problem: Where did these other Dales come from? Walter Bard has a problem. Well, Walter has twenty problems. Each of them a body buried in a pumpkin patch. And… they’re all the same. Down to the teeth.  But Walter has a solution. It’s his job. Solutions. He’s a detective, after all.

archerThe Mapmaker’s Apprentice (Glass and Steele #2), by C.J. Archer, Oct. 25. When an apprentice from the Mapmakers’ Guild goes missing, Matt and India are employed to find him. Going undercover as a married couple, they discover that not everyone at the guild is what they seem, and the lad’s unearthly maps caused jealousy, suspicion and fear. With one of the apprentice’s magic maps in their possession, India and Matt must use their wits and India’s fledgling, untried magic to find him. But the more they investigate, the more sinister plots they uncover, including a link between the Mapmakers’ and Watchmakers’ Guilds, and an ancient magical treasure buried beneath the streets of London.  As the net of suspicion widens and enemies draw closer, it’s not just the apprentice’s life that’s in danger, but Matt’s too. Someone will go to great lengths to prevent him discovering the name of the man who can fix the watch keeping him alive. Great lengths indeed.

cameronThe Plague of Swords (Traitor Son Cycle), by Miles Cameron, Oct. 25, Gollancz. One enemy has fallen … a greater one remains … now it’s war The Red Knight withstood the full might of his enemy and won the day. In a victory which will be remembered through the ages, he brought disparate factions together and turned them into allies against a more powerful foe than they had ever seen. Now, he will need his allies more than ever. Because behind one adversary hid another–one with allies of their own–whose goal was never to destroy Alba, but to distract the Kingdom while achieving his true aim. And whatever it is, it’s probably not in the Red Knight’s interest. With one army defeated, now the Red Knight must fight again–and for every one of his allies there is a corresponding enemy. Spread out in different lands, and on sea, it will all come down to one last gamble. And to whether or not the Red Knight has guessed their foe’s true intentions. With each throw of the dice, everything could be lost.

Leave a comment as to your preference—I’ll announce two weeks’ worth of winners on Sunday!