Category Archives: Fiction

Go Set A Watchman

go set a watchmanIt’s not often that I can sit back and devour a book but yesterday, I did exactly that with Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman.  When this book was announced earlier this year, I immediately pre-ordered it from Amazon and have been waiting on it to arrive anxiously.  I loved Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and I couldn’t wait to dig into Go Set A Watchman.  And I have to say, I was not disappointed.

Over the past few weeks there has been quite a bit of controversy over this book after it was revealed that Atticus Finch is portrayed as a racist.  Atticus, for many, has come to represent that epitome of humility, equality, and respect.  In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus stood up for what was right, taught his children valuable lessons about people and race, and became one of the most beloved characters of American literature.  So for many, Atticus as a racist was a hard pill to swallow.  Lee absolutely does portray Atticus with racist characteristics in Go Set a Watchman and that was hard for me to read at certain points in the book.  However, I think it is a dose of reality.  To Kill a Mockingbird is very much a story about Scout’s childhood and a child views her father very differently from the way an adult would.  This novel is set two decades after the events in To Kill a Mockingbird so of course Scout has grown up and now sees things differently.  She sees Atticus differently and notices things about him that she probably wouldn’t have noticed as a child.  Atticus still wants to do what is right but I think Scout is just able to finally see a different side of him as an adult.  I still found Atticus respectable even if I didn’t always agree with everything he said.  Also, just like many readers, Scout also has a lot of trouble rectifying the father she once knew with the new things she finds out about Atticus in this novel.  Scout’s struggle with this is one of the main plot points of the entire novel.

What I think is most poignant about this novel is that it very much pertains to all that has been in the news lately.  The difference between Atticus and Scout in this novel really highlights the conversations that are still taking place in our country.  The conversations between Atticus and Scout are still very relevant.  I think Scout’s plight in this novel is reminiscent of what many people of my generation are dealing with right now.  With all the talk about race in our country right now, I think many younger people are seeing elders that they always respected suddenly showing a very racist side.  Sometimes it is hard to grasp that the people you respect the most are not on board with what you think they should believe.  This book very much seems to me a big dose of truth and reality.

As far as writing, I really enjoyed the writing style.  Lee did a fantastic job.  There were some spots that were clearly not her best writing, however, that is something I could overlook considering that Lee wrote this years ago without the intention to publish it.  She supposedly requested that it finally be published without any changes or input from an editor and I think that has to be considered when judging her writing.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book.  It was hard at times to read, especially if you are attached to the Atticus everyone knows from To Kill a Mockingbird like I am.  However, it is well-written for the most part and I believe it is a poignant and timely statement about racial relations in the U.S.  I gave it a four out of five stores and would definitely recommend it.

fourstar

The Girl on the Train

girl on the trainThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins has been on several bestsellers lists for quite a while.  I’ve seen other avid readers raving about it and comparing it to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.  I finally decided that I needed to jump on the bandwagon and pick this book up.

I ordered this book from Amazon and I was so excited when it arrived at my front door.  I dug into it pretty quickly and I have to say, it did not disappoint.  This book was fast-paced and hooked me fast.  The story starts by introducing Rachel, a young woman whose world has fallen apart.  She is divorced and was recently let go from her job.  She spends her days drinking and riding commuter trains into the city so her roommate won’t know she no longer has a job.  She spends so much time on the train that she begins to make up lives for the people that she passes each day.  And then one day she witnesses something that might help the police in a missing person case but with Rachel’s history concerning alcohol, the police aren’t sure they can trust her.

I can absolutely see how this book has been compared to Gone Girl.  While I see the similarities, I don’t think the plot twists were quite as stunning to the reader as it was in Gone Girl.  The Girl on the Train definitely has surprising twists and turns.  I just think the reader can predict some of them. However, I don’t think that it took away from the book.  I still enjoyed it and I didn’t figure everything out so there were still some surprises.

The writing was good but I didn’t find that anything special about it stuck out for me.  Hawkins did a good job helping the reader jump to conclusions about different characters.  She develops the characters well. Overall, it’s easy to read and Hawkins does a good job at keeping the reader engaged.

If you’re into murder, mystery, and crimes, or if you like books similar to Gone Girl, then pick up The Girl on the Train.  It’s a great read.  Overall, I rated it four out of five stars!

fourstar

Station Eleven

Station ElevenStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel follows a group of actors and musicians in a post-apocalyptic world who are trying to preserve the arts.  It all begins when a highly contagious, airborne virus sweeps across the world.  In a matter of weeks the majority of the world’s population has been eradicated.  The survivors are slowly making a new life for themselves but when the caravan of actors and musicians arrive in a town called St. Deborah by the Water, they meet a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who tries to leave the town.

I picked this book up for a few different reasons.  The first being that it was a National Book Award finalist.  The second being that it came highly recommended by several of my reader friends.   Reading this book was definitely a good call. My favorite thing about this book is its unique take on a post apocalyptic world.  It seems like most of the books in that genre that I have read in the past few years involve a strong, controlling government or authority or some kind of zombies or creatures to fear.  Station Eleven didn’t have those elements.  The characters live in a world that many of us can’t imagine but the most dangerous element of that world is the other people in it.  To put it simply, the world in Station Eleven seems like a much more realistic and plausible take on how the world could end up if something catastrophic occurs.

Station Eleven alternates between the past and the present as well as between the different characters’ point of view.  Mandel did a wonderful job at pulling this off.  It allows her to tell the story of how the virus spread and impacted the world while also letting us see how the people who survived ended up where they are. It was easy to follow and the different takes on the story line complimented each other well.  It was also a book that really pulled me in.  It held my interest and I read it rather quickly.

I enjoyed this book and Mandel’s writing so much that I rated this book a solid five stars.  If you enjoy post-apocalyptic stories but would like something a bit different from the typical book in this genre, check out Station Eleven.

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The Maze Runner

6186357James Dashner’s The Maze Runner is the first book in the Maze Runner series.  It is one of those books that has been hanging out on my “to-read” list for a long time.  The movie is currently in theaters and I have heard a lot of good things about it so it prompted me to finally pick this book up and read it.

Thomas doesn’t remember anything prior to waking up in an empty box in the Glade.  He doesn’t remember where he came from or who he is.  The Glade is filled with boys who arrived in the same fashion as Thomas and also do not remember anything.  Thomas must quickly learn to navigate life in the Glade and something about this place seems vaguely familiar to Thomas but he can’t remember why.  And then, everything changes.  The next box to arrive doesn’t contain a boy.  Instead, the Gladers find the first girl to ever be sent to the Glade.  Things quickly change and Thomas soon realizes that he holds the key to the maze and many of the problems at the Glade…if only he could remember his past.

One of my students recently told me that James Dashner was one of his favorite authors.  I have to agree with that student.  Dashner definitely seems to be an author that I am going to enjoy reading more books from.  His writing is smooth and flows well.  He also kept his chapters engaging.  Every chapter ended in a way that made me want to just keep reading,

The Maze Runner is the first book in series and ended accordingly.  Dashner leaves the reader with only partial answers to most of the problems in the book.  I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

This is a book that I think fans of the dystopian genre will really enjoy.  It is also considered a young adult book so it will appeal to younger readers.  Overall, I rated this book four out of five stars.

fourstar

This Is Where I Leave You

This Is Where I Leave YouJudd Foxman’s wife is sleeping with his boss and his dad just died.  Judd, stressed and beaten down, returns to his childhood home to mourn his father with his two brothers, his sister, and mother.  The siblings are shocked to find out that their non-religious father’s dying request was that they would sit shiva as a family.  The Foxman siblings are less than thrilled to sit in mourning for seven days as a family but oblige for their mother’s sake.  Jonathan Tropper brings to life the dysfunctional Foxman family as they navigate awkward family dynamics and rehash the past with each other.

I really just want to gush about this book.  I absolutely loved it.  I was able to relate to each character and I really appreciated each of the different, personal issues that the characters were dealing with.  The book was well-written and I had a really hard time putting it down.  Tropper did an amazing job of instilling humor into some really tough situations in the book.  Even though the topics were not the most positive, Tropper kept me laughing throughout the book.

I highly recommend this book if you are looking for a good laugh and a family to fall in love with.  This book was also made into a movie this year.  I have not seen it yet but, after finishing the book, I can’t wait for the movie to come out on DVD.  I rated this book four stars.  I gave it four stars instead of five because, quite frankly, I just wanted more of the Foxman family.  Finishing this book made me a little bit sad.

fourstar

The Silent Wife

The Silent WifeJodi and Todd have been a couple for more than twenty years.  They have created a beautiful life together full of luxuries.  Todd isn’t satisfied though and begins to stray.  Jodi, aware of Todd’s affairs, remains silent and allows him to do as he wishes in order to maintain their comfortable lives and relationship. Everything is going smoothly for Jodi until Todd decides to leave her and move in with his mistress.  Todd turns Jodi’s world upside down, evicting her from their home and cancelling their credit cards.  Jodi is distraught and makes a decision that will haunt her.

I actually found this book on a list of book recommendations to read after Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  It sounded interesting and I decided to put it on my “to-read” list.  It probably would have stayed there for quite a while but I ran into it in the clearance section at a local bookstore.  For only three dollars, I had to get it.

I found this book to be a relatively quick read.  It is fairly fast-paced but at the same time there isn’t a lot of action in most of the book.  A significant portion of the book is the internal dialogue of Todd and Jodi.  Harrison does leave enough intrigue in the book to keep the reader engaged.

At times, I thought that this book was predictable but then a twist would show up that I couldn’t always see coming.  The writing is well done and the characters are intriguing.  I found myself empathizing with both Todd and Jodi at times.  Harrison’s writing was smooth and allowed me to become very involved in the story.  It was definitely one of those that I had a hard time putting down.

Overall, I rated this book four out of five stars.  If you like tales that are a bit dark at times or hard to predict, pick this one up.

fourstar

Sharp Objects

GilliaSharp Objectsn Flynn is known for writing the hit novel Gone Girl but she actually has several other books that are just as dark and enthralling.  Sharp Objects is one of those novels.  This novel follows reporter Camille Preaker as she travels back to her hometown to cover the gruesome murder of two young girls for the newspaper for which she works. It has been years since Camille has visited her childhood home and it is an understatement to say that her relationship with her mother is strained.  As she tries to uncover who is behind the murders, Camille begins to find skeletons from her own past. Dark things about her mother and family begin to come to the surface and it forces Camille to reconsider her own memories of those dark times growing up in her mother’s house.

While all of the books that I have read by Gillian Flynn often have dark subject matters, this one is probably the darkest and most disturbing for me.  The main character was mentally fragile and often makes terrible decisions, such as drinking and taking drugs with her thirteen year old sister.  Some of the things the main character thought and did made me cringe a bit.  However, while I was frustrated with Camille and her decisions, Flynn does a fantastic job of writing a character that is very well-developed.  Flynn is a fantastic writer and has an amazing ability to weave quite the web of deception and darkness in her novels.

My only complaint about this book was that I found it to be a bit more predictable than Flynn’s other books.  I had this book figured out about half way through it for the most part.  Seeing the details play out, however, was still engaging.  If you are okay with dark subject matter and mental illness, then pick this book up.  It’s fast-paced and interesting.  Overall, I rated this book three stars.

threestar