The Girl On the Train by Paula Hawkins – A Book Review

I picked this book up based upon a considerable amount of buzz in my community.  I have to be honest, I nearly didn’t make it past the first chapter.  Our main character is Rachel, and in the beginning, the story is told solely from her perspective.  Because I found her so boring and, frankly, pathetic, I didn’t know for sure if I could continue.  But then It became very clear by the end of the chapter that she is a drunk, unreliable, and possibly deranged.  Though slow at first, once these characteristics arise, the book suddenly became very interesting and Rachel transformed into a figure I’ve never quite experienced in books.

In fact, I became so engrossed in the book I could hardly put it down.  Rachel is seemingly stalking her ex-husband and his new wife, has constructed a fantasy world for the people she sees in their homes as she rides the train, and is generally falling apart as she makes one awful, drunken decision after another.

A mystery begins, though, concerning some injuries she suffered during a blackout.  Plus, a very violent crime arrives, one tied to her ex-husband and a specific couple she fantasized about from the train.

The book is addictive in that it plays with timelines, revealing tidbits of information at different intervals and demands the reader put them together chronologically.  As the book progresses, it also offers other perspectives, specifically from Megan, the woman Rachel fantasizes about, and Anna, Rachel’s ex-husband’s new wife.  Through these various perspectives, you learn that none of these women are completely honest, and some of them are downright dangerous.

Near the end, however, the book completely lost me.  I won’t spoil too much, but Rachel, one of the most unconventional and original female characters I’ve encountered in quite some time, becomes totally beholden to the men in the story.  In fact, the entire story line hinges upon her ex-husband and the man Rachel fantasizes about from the train.  The women suddenly serve only to propel the plot, to act as tools of the men, and that’s a real travesty considering the magnificent characterization unfolding up to that point.

Slade House by David Mitchell – A Book Review

Much of the promotion surrounding this book touts it as a haunted house story, a work of horror.  However, it readily became apparent that it is nothing of the sort – it’s an unrelenting companion piece to The Bone Clocks.  In fact, if you haven’t yet read The Bone Clocks, I wholeheartedly recommend you read Slade House first.  It serves as an excellent introduction to that book’s general plot and tone.

Like The Bone Clocks, Slade House is fairly direct storytelling from David Mitchell.  Yes, he bends genre brilliantly to suit the story’s needs, and his ideas are inventive as well as captivating, but the writing isn’t necessarily difficult to read.  In fact, I rather like the fact that Mitchell is streamlining his style a bit.  Make no mistake, though, this is still an extremely creative artist who forges worlds masterfully.

Though a quick read, Slade House forces us to dive deeply into the lives of doomed characters, characters connected from one decade to the next, characters with no hope against the monsters hunting them.  But, as you well know, monsters always have hunters of their own, and I believe the reader will be satisfied by this tale’s conclusion.

Celebrate This Halloween With Dr. Nekros

Did you know I have an eighteen-part serial exclusive to the Amazon Kindle?  It is about Dr. Nekros, a ghost hunter seeking vengeance against the demon that disfigured him.  Though he doesn’t deserve her kindness, his ex-wife is trying to save the wayward man from a gruesome fate, one that threatens to tear her new family apart as well.  This serial will frighten you, make you laugh, and thrill you as it spans generations and enters worlds unknown.  Start now and finish on Halloween night!

Download the epic series to your Kindle or Kindle App HERE.

Dr. Nekros Is Dying For Your Readership

Between 2011 and 2014, I published a bi-monthly electronic serial exclusive to the Kindle called Dr. Nekros.  I’m dead serious when I say he came to me in a dream and wouldn’t rest until I wrote his tale.  I won’t lie, I started the serial without really knowing where it would lead.  I had the first six episodes figured out, but the last twelve were an utter mystery.

During a horrendous bout with the stomach flu, his story’s end came to me.  Honestly, it’s an ending I didn’t ever expect, but it fits perfectly to both Dr. Nekros and his ample cast of characters.

Frankly, this serial is one of those rare moments when I felt as though I merely acted as the conduit.  These characters were in complete control.

Though Dr. Nekros dances in the world of the occult, it primarily occurs in the world we know and features very real people.  There are husbands and wives, mothers and sons, uncles, aunts, grandparents, brothers, sisters, and friends only death could separate.

They deserve your readership.  They want you to experience their plight.  They will make you laugh, they will frighten you, they will make you despair, and they will reaffirm your faith in hope.

If you have a Kindle, you can download all 18 episodes now.  Don’t have a Kindle?  The App is free for your computer or mobile device.  Find all the episodes HERE.

Thanks so much for your time.  I hope you enjoy reading Dr. Nekros as much as I enjoyed writing it.


My Opinion Regarding Go Set a Watchman (Having Not Yet Read It)

I’m excited there is so much conversation happening lately regarding literature.  When Go Set a Watchman finally released the other day, my social feed went nuts.  In fact, just in the last two days, I’ve had at least three separate conversations about the novel.  I love books and I love reading, so these are glorious moments for me.  I don’t remember this much anticipation and excitement about a book since the last Harry Potter installment.

I’ve also noticed some professional literary critics already claiming the book is not great, and there seems to be some disappointment among people about these negative reviews.

But honestly, did anyone expect the book to be great?  Now, please do keep in mind I haven’t yet read the book, but the book’s promotion clearly communicated that this novel is essentially comprised of those parts of To Kill a Mockingbird that didn’t make the final cut.

We probably shouldn’t expect too much from Go Set a Watchman due to this fact.  Instead, I think we should be celebrating the author herself.  I don’t believe any of us thought Harper Lee would ever release another book, so this moment is a grand one due to that fact alone.  Why is Lee now deciding to publish Go Set a Watchman when she hasn’t published anything (by name) in several decades?  Was it actually lost to time as they claim?  Honestly … who cares?  Harper Lee is aging, and I personally believe we should simply be happy to have one more work from this author – an author for whom virtually every American student is familiar.  We will have a blast comparing and contrasting her two novels, written together but published lifetimes apart.  How cool is that?  I’m so happy Lee decided to share one more work with us.

Will I read Go Set a Watchman?  Of course!  But not for a few months.  I want the hype to die down.  I want the critics to have their say and then move on to something else.  I want to pick up the book and read it for what it is – the work of a very young author released very late in life.

The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger – A Book Review

Not quite a picture book and not quite a graphic novel, The Night Bookmobile, like its plot, is gloriously subversive in terms of both genre and plot.

In this short tale we have Alexandra, a woman who strolls Chicago streets during the early, early morning. She happens across a night  bookmobile in the shape of a Winnebago.  She is invited in, and, upon studying the collection, realizes she’s read every single copy within the vehicle.  What she learns next surprises her and influences her for the rest of her life, a life she spends searching not only for the night bookmobile, but for its elusive home Library.

And just when the reader begins to feel comfortable, the story takes quite a turn and moves in a totally unexpected direction.  I will not even hint at a spoiler, but I did not suspect the last third of the story whatsoever.

So, as you can see, I very much enjoyed the actual story.  At times it reads like prose, at other times it reads similar to a comic strip.  Niffenegger is not only a talented writer, but she’s a gifted artist as well.  The book’s art, like it’s plot, is unorthodox yet quite appealing.  Though the lines are simple, the picture are detailed with pleasant colors and fine perspective.  I particularly enjoy Niffenegger’s faces.  She’s excellent at subtle expressions.

The best of writing and the best of art should always discomfort us, surprise us, and stimulate our thoughts.  The Night Bookmobile is admirable in that it does all three both concisely and poignantly.

The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith – A Book Review

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, yet I chose this book solely because of just that.  I saw the cover art on First Second’s (@01FirstSecond) Twitter page and then immediately picked it up at my local library.

I didn’t know what to expect from The Alex Crow even after reading its synopsis.  It’s comprised of three seemingly unrelated stories that, as you probably guessed, ultimately merge.

The first story focuses upon Ariel, a Middle Eastern refugee trying to make sense of his tortured past and his perplexing present after a family in West Virginia adopted him.  They also have a son Ariel’s age and a reincarnated crow named Alex.  Alex is not reincarnated in the strictest sense.  Ariel’s new father works to reintroduce formerly extinct species through his scientific endeavors.  Ariel and his new brother, Max, are soon sent to camp where they are meant to bond.  Unfortunately, the camp is intended for boys addicted to gaming, and when surrounded by teenagers going through cold turkey, both Ariel and Max feel as though they’ve been dropped into an asylum.

The second string focuses upon a mad bomber named Leonard Fountain.  Leonard believes he’s trailed by an invisible drone, hears voices, and has skin that is literally falling off his body.  He drives his U-Haul around the countryside, listening to the voices help him find the perfect place to detonate.  As fate would have it, he’s connected to the Alex Division of the Merrie-Seymour Research Group, the very company where Ariel’s adopted father works.

The last plotline features a doctor in the late 1800s aboard the Alex Crow, which is a sea faring vessel attempting to reach the absolute north.  When the ship becomes trapped in ice for months on end, the doctor and his shipmates must fight for their very survival.  They eventually find something encased in the ice, something long since dead, something hellish, and the doctor knows then and there that he must somehow reincarnate it, even if it takes a century.

The Alex Crow’s genre is undefinable, which is the highest compliment I can offer any work.  Though it features young adults, this old man very much enjoyed it.  At times the book is brutally realistic, especially when revealing Ariel’s past, but it also holds nothing back in the realm of science fiction.  It is at times adventuresome, creepy, absurd, touching, unsettling, and thought provoking.  Amidst its multifaceted threads, however, it is consistently humorous.  The humor is sometimes good-natured, sometimes discomforting, and sometimes inappropriate, but it is always there.

Though I’ve discussed the major beats of The Alex Crow, this book is complex beyond description.  One must read this book truly to experience Smith’s originality, intricacy, and hilarity.  I highly recommend you do so.