Monday, November 20, 2017

Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express
by Agatha Christie

I always forget how much I enjoy Agatha Christie's writing until I read one of her books. I'm not sure why haven't read more of her works because I have really liked the ones I have read. This one was no exception.

This book is one of her Hercule Poirot novels. I know he is one of her more famous characters and that he appears in many of her stories but this was my first experience with him. He is a detective from Belgium and in this story he finds himself on a train where a murder occurs. The train becomes stuck in the snow so all the passengers, including the murderer are on the train with nowhere to go. Knowing he is a detective, the director of the train line asks him to help solve the crime before they arrive at their next destination.

I really enjoyed trying to solve the mystery, even though I didn't even come close to guessing the correct outcome. It seemed so obvious when he explains who done it but it definitely surprised me. I love a good mystery that keeps me guessing and this book did a great job of that.

There was a lot of talking and interviewing and not a lot of action but the story still managed to keep my interest. Many of the passengers and Poirot (because of his Belgium background) spoke french so there was quite a bit of french through out the book.  I took enough french in high school and college that it was pretty easy to follow so I barely noticed but it may be more bothersome for someone who is not familiar with french.

I thought all the characters were really interesting and I'm looking forward to seeing how they are portrayed in the film that just came out. There are a lot of really great actors in the film so it could be fun. Anyway, there were characters from all different walks of life and the way that their stories came together was really cool.

If you like mystery but haven't read one of Christie's books you should give it a try. I'm willing to bet that you are going to like her books too.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Wolf Hollow

Wolf Hollow
by Lauren Wolk

This book tells the story of a young girl named Annabelle, in a small Pennsylvania town during the World War II Era. A new girl moves into town and starts to bully Annabelle. Things escalate and the town's reclusive World War I veteran becomes a target of her bullying also. Annabelle must learn how to navigate this journey and have the courage to stand up for more then just herself.

This was such a heartbreaking but beautiful story. I really liked Annabelle and her family. Likable characters always make a story easier to read.  It was so easy to get caught up in this story. I cared what happened to Annabelle and the people she cared the most about.

I was so frustrated with the adults who didn't believe Annabelle but believed her bully. It was frustrating to see so many people make assumptions about someone because of the way they lived. Of course as the reader I knew what was really happening but the other characters weren't seeing what Annabelle saw. So even though I was frustrated, I also understood why they made the choices they did. This made it so believable and so easy to see how the events in this story played out the way they did. How everything spiraled out of control because of the false words of one little girl.

This  is a good book to read to help get a little more perspective about bullying. Sometimes it is so hard to see what is really going on. When one kid says one thing and another claims something else, who do you believe? It is so easy to believe that your child can do no harm and I can see why parents wouldn't believe their child could be responsible for bad things. We love our children and want to protect them but we need to remember that we don't always see everything, especially when they are away from our home.

I also think this book does a good job of showing how very difficult it was for World War I veterans when they returned home. PTSD wasn't really understood very well yet and no one seemed to understand the help these veterans needed. It was really heartbreaking to read about.

I'd recommend this book, even if it was a very sad story. I think we can all learn something new from it.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Exit West

Exit West
by Mohsin Hamid

This book follows the story of two young people who meet in a war torn city, fall in love and eventually decide to leave their homeland in search of someplace safer. This book had a lot of potential but it just fell apart about halfway through. I barely managed to finish it. I found the plot to be too slow and lacking any real heart.

I'm actually kind of surprised that there are so many 5 star reviews on Goodreads for this Book. It definitely did not live up to the hype.

 I don't like to compare books but it was hard not to compare this book to A Thousand Splendid Suns, which was so beautifully written and such an incredibly touching story. This book doesn't even come close to the writing or plot of that novel, so I was pretty disappointed through out. There were a few things that made this book so unsuccessful for me.

I thought the first half was pretty good. The characters were interesting, especially as they had to figure out how to navigate their romance in a city torn apart by war. Once they left their city though, the story really slowed down. I kept hoping for it to pick back up again but it never did and when it ended I was disappointed and a little bummed I spent so much time on their story.

Part of the problem is that the story is narrated from a third person point of view and because of that I felt like I was just on the outside looking in. I never got to really feel what these characters were feeling. I never felt a real connection to them. I am learning that I much prefer a story written in first person. I story that draws me in and makes me feel like I'm living their lives through their eyes.

I didn't find the characters to be very like able and the way they lived their lives very contradictory. For example Nadia portrayed herself as being very devout and religious by wearing black robes to cover herself but then smoked weed, did psychedelic mushrooms and tried to pressure Saeed into having sex with her. I get that she was wearing the robes so that others would leave her alone but it was such a stark contrast from her real personality, it just felt off.

The beginning definitely had a lot of potential and was interesting enough that I wanted to continue reading. I wanted to find out what became of these characters. Then it got weird. Magic doors started appear that allowed people to escape their country and enter a foreign new place. At that point the story kind of lost me. It just stopped being a very interesting story. I thought that the magic aspect was a strange addition to this type of tale. It didn't add anything. The magic also made the story feel less real. It become less believable and thus lost it's impact. I felt less for these characters because their story didn't seem like something that could actually happen. I felt some empathy for their plight, being refugees in a foreign, unwelcoming land, but I never felt a real connection.

And finally, probably the thing that threw me off the most, were the snippets about random places and people, that never felt like they had anything to do with the story. I kept waiting for them to have some kind of connection but if there was one it was lost on me. I didn't understand why these were even included in the story. Just really odd writing.

So while many people seem to love this book, I am not one of them. I've read much better, far more touching tales, of families and refugees navigating a world torn apart by war.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Eve: First Matriarch

Eve: First Matriarch
By Angelique Conger

This book was given to me by a friend. It is the first in a series of book written by an author here in Vegas. I was a little hesitant to read it because I've rarely read a fictional, religious based book that I have loved. This book was self published so that also made me a little unsure about reading it, but I didn't want to let those things stop me from reading something that might be good so I decided to give a try.

This follows the story of Eve, from her creation, to eating the fruit and being kicked out of the Garden, and their life outside the Garden. It really had potential to be a fascinated look at what their life might have been like as they navigated the world outside the protection of Eden for the first time. But I struggled to get through this book. The writing style just wasn't for me. It was all just too simple. There wasn't enough depth to the story or the characters. I never really felt any connection to Eve which made it difficult to really stay interested in what was going on. I didn't find  Eve and Adam to be very like-able characters, so when their children started leaving them I didn't feel that sad about it. Not really the reaction I think the author was going for.

Everything worked out a little too easily for them. For example horses appeared and they not only allowed themselves to be ridden with out any effort, but the characters immediately knew how to ride them. There was no learning involved. This kind of thing happened through out the book and to be honest really made the entire story unbelievable for me. They would come across some trial or problem and a couple paragraphs later they would miraculously solve the issue.

My other issue was that it was very preaching and repetitive. I feel like Eve kept rehashing her choice to eat the fruit in the garden, over and over again. I don't mind some religious sentiment through out a book but I dislike it when it feels overly done. Also there where parts of the book that felt like they were taken from other places that weren't meant to be put in a fictional setting. It's hard for me to explain but those parts made me uncomfortable. I just feel like some things should be kept more sacred.

The truth is that I never felt anything spiritual uplifting from this book and  If I'm being honest I prefer to get my spiritual fixes from the scriptures. Which I have come to realize, is why I don't often like religious stories fictionalized.

It's just a personal preference for me. I'm sure there are plenty other out there who might really like a story like this. A story that gives you a peek into the lives of the people found in the Bible. Brings them to life and makes them more accessible. If you enjoy Religious fiction I would give this book a try but if you are like me and don't often read them, you may not like it much.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Woman in Cabin 10

The Woman in Cabin 10
by Ruth Ware

I recently started up a book club with some friends and we read this book for October. In this mystery Lo, a journalist assigned to review a luxury cruise, sees the women in the cabin next to her being thrown overboard. The only problem is that none of the passengers are missing the next morning. She becomes determined to find the truth and figure out what is really going on.

This story had a lot of potential to be a really interesting read but it moved rather slowly, especially towards the end, when it should have been picking up speed instead.  The ending was anti-climatic and honestly left some questions that I'm not sure can be answered. I thought there were some really interesting characters onboard the cruise with Lo, but they ended up having very little time in the book and I feel like they could have added more depth to the plot.

I did find it enjoyable enough to finish it but I have definitely read better mysteries. Most of the other ladies in my group did not finish. For me it did catch me attention enough to keep me reading. I  really wanted to find out what had really happened. I even like some of the plot twist through out. They were surprising enough to keep me on my toes. I just wish the story had a little more to it, so it wasn't such a slow read.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Words of Radiance

Words of Radiance
By Brandon Sanderson

This is the second book in The Stormlight Archive series. It was 1300 pages and I loved everything about it. If you have been following me at all you have probably figured out that I am a huge fan of anything written by Brandon Sanderson. He really is a Master storyteller. He creates these amazingly complex worlds and characters who live in them. If I am ever struggling to find something enjoyable to read, I know I can count on him to bring me a story that I can't put down.

I loved reading more about the characters from the first book and delving deeper into their stories. I especially liked learning more about Shallan's past. I love the concept in these books of the Spren who work with humans.

The magic in these books is so fascinating and I like how he continues to gives us a deeper look into this fantasy world as the story progresses.

Oh, and I really love Wit's sense of humor in these books. I always find myself chuckling when he is on the scene. I hope that in the future we get to know a little more about who or what he is!

This was a great continuation of the story and I can't wait until the next book comes out in November. I look forward to reading more about their world and their stories!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Room with a View

A Room With a View
by E.M. Foster

I really wanted to like this book but I just couldn't get into it. You'll notice it's been a few week since I posted much on this blog. Partly because I started a book club and the book we are reading this month, I have already read. And partly because this book took me almost 2 weeks to get through. It is less then 200 pages so that really shows you just how slowly this story moved for me. In fact by the end I was just skimming to find out how it turned out.

My biggest problem with this book was the writing style. It was just so hard to follow what was going on. Of course this book was written in 1908 so the language is different then what I'm used to and made it more difficult to follow. It did help that the back of the book had  some explanatory notes to help explain some of the references through out the book. References to places and people that were common knowledge back then, but that most of us have not heard of in our day and age. That being said, I have never had an issue reading Jane Austin which was written in a similar time period. For me the writing was just a little too dull for my taste.

I  didn't feel any connection to the characters and it was hard to follow why certain people were looked down on. There really wasn't any context.  Plus the big event, had no build up or any foreshadowing up to that point. No looks of longing or hints that there might be some kind of attraction. It just seemed kind of random with out any signs that something was up.

The second half was a little better but I still never really felt a connection to any of the characters. And by that point I just wanted to be done with the story.

I read plenty of reviews were people loved this book and what he was trying say about society, but I'm not one of those people. I've read better classics.