Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Review for The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

A sad tale with a bit of redemption in the end
3 stars

I read this book because it was a novel written in first person.  The story is narrated by three women, each with a past and something to hide.  The main narrator is Rachel, an alcoholic who is barren, fat, and feels very insecure and worthless.  Her husband divorces her and she loses her job, but keeps this job loss a secret for half of the novel. She’s too ashamed to admit that she was fired for consistently being drunk on the job, so she takes the train to work everyday as she lives in her dreamworld.

A lot of “in your head” talking goes on in this story and especially on the train.  Rachel can view her old house and neighborhood from the window and watch her husband and his new wife and child on the balcony.  She’s upset that they live in her house and have the family she always wanted.  She also watches another house a few doors away and imagines the happy life that couple have.

Rachel becomes obsessed with a pile of discarded clothes next to the railroad tracks and then reads in the paper about a girl who goes missing off the street of her old neighborhood.  She's lonely and has no life of her own. She drowns all her pain through various alcoholic beverages daily.  But Rachel's interest is perked when she reads about the disappearance.  She emerges herself in this unfolding story as the police investigate the vanishing of the girl from the happy couple who live a few doors down from her old house.  

Rachel so desperately wants to fit in and feel needed that she lies to get close to the husband of the missing girl.  As we all know lies eventually catch up with us.  But Rachel isn’t the only one lying throughout this book.

There are lots of underlying factors in this story of love, lies, divorce, jealousy, lust, betrayal and fear.  At first I found it a bit hard to get into this book because of all the internal narration going on in the heads of Rachel, Anna and Megan.  There’s very little dialogue.

Rachel finds herself in many wrong places at the wrong time. The fact she doesn’t remember a lot of things because she was drunk eats away at her as she tries to figure out what really happened.

In the last seventy five pages, the story really starts coming together with a lot of the blanks filled in.  I enjoyed this part the best.  I know this book was made into a movie.  Perhaps the movie will be better than the book this time.  Usually books are always better, but I guess I got the message that Rachel was a lonely drunk trying to find a way to fit in and be happy early on in the story.  

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Teaching myself as I go

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of first person novels.  I’m writing my mystery series in first person and think this exercise may be helpful.  Sometimes I second guess myself though and think I should change it all to third person, although I like getting into one person’s head and going with it.  I don’t know if this will be a smart move or not.

It seems every first person novel I read is entirely different from the last one.  I wonder if this is right or not.  I have come to the realization that having more then four-five viewpoints are too many for a first person story.  So now it’s back to the drawing board for those extra people’s roles in the story.  I need to work that in some other way, perhaps though dialogue with a more major character.

I’m a very long winded person, come story or real life, so this is very hard for me to do – cut things back to the bare minimum.  I’m working on it and sometimes this entails beating my head on the wall.  Eventually, I’ll come up with a story worth reading, I hope.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Here’s something different

Recently, I ran across some nice photo writing prompts, so I thought I’d share one of those today.  Yes, I know I should be working on my novel rewrite, but I’ve been working so many hours for a part-time job that’s its unbelievable.  I think things will be slowing down soon, for a while, and I’ll get back to it.  Meanwhile, if you’d like something fun to play with see the prompt below.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Readers Live Longer??

Photo by Bryan Thomas for the New York Times

This is a fascinating study about readers versus non-readers.  This appeared in the New York Times on August 3rd.  You can read their article by clicking here.

Over 3,650 people over age fifty participated in this study done by Yale University.  This group was split into three groups, those that didn’t read books at all, those who read three-and-a-half hours a week and those that read more than that.

The study was adjusted to include factors such as age, race, self-reported health, employment, marital status, etc.  Age for the three-and-a-half hour a week group increased lifespan by 17 percent while those that read more than that increased by 23 percent.  Book readers live an average of about two years longer than non-readers.

Reading through newspapers and magazines also saw some benefit, but not as much as book readers.  Maybe one uses more cognitive ability while reading books, which, of course, helps your brain stay younger longer.  This study was published in Social Science and Medicine.  If you’d like to read the article about the study, click the link above.

Now drag out those books and start reading.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Taking a short break

I’ll be having cataract surgery on both eyes and will be taking a break until the end of July.  Please bear with me.  I’ll try to get back to regular posting after that.

Thanks for reading.  I hope your summer is going great!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Happy July Fourth

I know I’ve been bad about posting here lately.  Hopefully, I can change all that soon.  The problem is many things, but mostly a lack of time to research and post anything worthwhile to read.

I wanted to wish all of you a Happy July Fourth.  It’s bittersweet here with that being the death dates of my father in 1980 and my husband’s father last year.  It’s way to hot to even enjoy a barbecue outside in the desert.  Because of that, we’ll be cooking indoors as usual.

Everyone be safe out there and have a happy day with family and friends.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Another writer gone, but not forgotten

Pat Conroy
10-26-1945 - 3-4-2016

We lost another author and a good one, Pat Conroy.  He was the author of the Prince of Tides and other books that were made into movies.  I’m sure some of you saw some of his films, The Great Santini and Conrack, or perhaps read his books.  The movie for Conrack was titled The Water is Wide and was about teaching poor children on the isolated Daufiskie Island, not far from the resort of Hilton Head where the rich lived.  Mr. Conroy won a National Endowment for the Arts award for this book in 1972.

The movie, Prince of Tides, also won him an Academy Award nomination in 1991.

Conroy lived many places during his life, but called South Carolina home where he was born on October 26, 1945, the oldest of seven children.  The family moved extensively during his childhood because his dad was an aviator in the military.  He flew fighter planes and was very hard on Pat while he was growing up.  He made him attend the Citadel, which was the last thing he wanted to do, but he avoided the draft and wrote a blog at that time about being an anti-war activist.  He saw eight of his Citadel friends killed in the Vietnam War.  He said “they walked off the stage and directly into the Vietnam War.”

Pat Conroy’s memoir, The Death of Santini, reflects on the struggles between him and his father.  After the movie, The Great Santini, came out his father claimed responsibility for boosting the career of Robert Duvall, the main character.  Duvall had already starred in the “Godfather” movies so this wasn’t entirely true, but gives one a sense of what a controlling man his father was. 

Later the book did help to achieve peace between father and son.

The author was married three times and leaves behind two daughters.  He battled a number of health problems including diabetes, high blood pressure and a failing liver.  During his life, he suffered from depression, divorce, back surgery and the suicide of a younger brother.  But he succumbed to pancreatic cancer on Friday, March 4 2016.  He will be missed.