Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Serpent King

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Zentner, Jeff. The Serpent King. Crown: 2016.

image from: www.amazon.com

My Thoughts
I enjoyed this book! The characters are real--so real that I was crying at one point while reading (which was a little embarrassing because I was at a volleyball tournament).

Dill(ard), Lydia and Travis are friends. They are entering their last year of high school and making plans for the next chapter. Dill will probably work full time at the grocery store to help his family pay bills. Lydia plans to leave Tennessee (as soon as she can!) and attend school in NYC and make her fashion blog even bigger (she already has thousands of followers) and Travis...well, Travis is just waiting for the next book in the Bloodfall series.

The story is told from all three character's points of view, but it's a blend of first and third person narration. It broke my heart reading about some of the "trials" of their lives, but these episodes make the characters believable. I think I've known all three of these kids several times over in my career.

Dill's family's story is the title reference (found on page 68). Does he have his "family blood" and end up like his grandfather (dead) or dad (prison)? Will Lydia's and Travis' friendship help him forge a different path?

I LOVED the Pathetic Prom scenes. SO FUNNY!  I loved that Mr. Burson's "tiny museum of early editions of Faulkner, O'Connor, Welty and McCarthy" bookstore is included. (Zentner 124)

At times, there were summations included to push the story forward. I was bothered a little by this, as it seemed to gloss over or force the story. This wasn't too often, but I did notice it.

When I finished the book, I Tweeted out to the author, and he responded! I can't wait to meet him in a few weeks at the North Texas Teen Book Festival. Based on this book, I will read Zentner's other works.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Girl on the Train

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Hawkins, Paula. The Girl on the Train. Riverhead Books, 2015.

image from: www.wikipedia.com

Summary (from Wikipedia):

Rachel Watson is a 32-year-old alcoholic reeling from the dissolution of her marriage to Tom, who left her for another woman, Anna Watson. Rachel's drinking has caused her to lose her job; she frequently binges and has blackouts. While drunk, she often harasses Tom by phone and sometimes even in person, though she has little or no memory of these acts once she sobers up. Tom is now married to Anna and has a daughter with her, Evie – a situation that fuels Rachel's self-destructive tendencies, as it was her inability to conceive a child that began her spiral into alcoholism. Concealing her unemployment from her flatmate, Rachel follows her old routine of taking the train to London every day; her train slowly passes her old house, which is now occupied by Tom, Anna, and Evie. She also begins watching from the train an attractive couple who live a few houses away from Tom, fantasizing about their perfect life together. Rachel has never met them and has no idea that their life is far from perfect, or that the woman, Megan Hipwell, helps Anna care for her child.
Megan outwardly seems perfect to Rachel — beautiful, apparently happy, and married to a handsome, devoted man. However, Megan has a troubled past that she conceals from everyone who knows her and which gives her severe insomnia. She secretly finds her life boring and shallow, and escapes from her troubles by taking a series of lovers. She has sought help by seeing a therapist, Dr. Kamal Abdic, whom she would like to seduce. Eventually, she reveals to him a dark secret she has never confided to anyone before.
Anna is young, beautiful, very much in love with Tom, and happy as a stay-at-home mother to the young Evie. While at first she enjoyed the idea of parading her conquest of Tom in front of Rachel, as a way to show that he picked her over Rachel, she eventually becomes furious at Rachel's harassment of her and her family, and wants to move from Rachel's former house and report Rachel's stalking to the police. Anna views Rachel as a threat to her family and home, and particularly dreads Rachel's presence because Rachel entered their home, picked up Evie, and walked outside with her one day.
One day, Rachel is stunned to see Megan kissing a man other than her husband. The next day, after a night of heavy drinking, Rachel awakens to find herself bloody and injured, with no memories of the night before but certain that she has done something she will regret. Soon, she learns that one of the top stories of the day is that Megan is missing. Rachel is questioned by the police after Anna reports having seen her staggering around drunk in the area the night of Megan's disappearance. Rachel starts to become interested in the missing persons case. She contacts the police to tell them she thinks Megan was having an affair, because she was watching her every morning and evening from the train, and then she contacts Megan's husband, Scott. Rachel lies and tells Scott she and Megan were friends, and she tells him her thoughts about the affair. Rachel learns that the man she saw kissing Megan the day she disappeared was Kamal.
[The summary continues, but I don't want to spoil the story for the reader.]

My Thoughts
Almost immediately, this book had me thinking...what was happening? Who did it?

This is not a book I would normally pick up, but several friends recommended it. It has a murder. There is violence, but I enjoyed trying to unravel the mystery of the story. I was pleased with the way the story ended. I didn't have it all figured out before finishing.

There are three narrators: Rachel, Megan and Anna. Each woman tells events that lead up to and follow the murder. I started keeping a log of when each was speaking because I didn't know if the author was giving clues in that or not.

There are several twists in the story. There are several red herrings. There are times I could feel my heart racing. I liked the way the author folded in the three narrators' stories to create the book.