Friday 56, November 18, 2022: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Welcome to Friday 56! Hosted by Freda’s Voice, you turn to page 56 or 56% in any book or reading device and pick a sentence that grabs you.

‘She doesn’t have kids, then?’ he asks, and I don’t know if I’m imagining it, but the second the subject of children comes up, I can hear an edge in his voice and I can feel the argument coming and I just don’t want it, can’t deal with it, so I get to my feet and I tell him to bring the wine glasses, because we’re going to the bedroom.”

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

This quote is taken from page 56 of the book. At this point in the book, we have met two women, Rachel and Megan, from who’s point of views the story is told. Rachel’s story takes place in the “present”, around July 2013. She is the “girl on the train.” Fresh off a bitter divorce, Rachel has turned to alcohol to forget her troubles, of which she has many. Although fired from her job, she takes the train to “work” everyday anyway, passing by what used to be her old home, where her ex and his new wife and daughter currently reside.

A few doors down from Rachel’s old house lives a woman and a man, who Rachel has named Jess and Jason (real names Megan and Scott). Everyday as Rachel passes by on the train, she gazes out the window and watches “Jess” and “Jason”. Rachel imagines a perfect life — a perfect couple — that is until she sees “Jess” kissing another man.

The other POV in the book is that of Megan (Jess). Her story takes place in the past, starting in May, 2012. Her story is slowly being brought to the present. By page 62 we have made it to January 2013 in Megan’s timeline. I am interested to know how her story progresses, for in July, 2013 (Rachel’s timeline) we learn that Megan is missing.

All in all a great set up for the rest of the story in the first 56 pages!

BOOK REVIEW: Snow by Ronald Malfi

Title: Snow

Author: Ronald Malfi

Book Length: 311 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Horror, Sci-fi, Folklore-Monsters, Paranormal

Read Start Date: October 23, 2022

Read Finish Date: October 29, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Todd Curry wants nothing more than to spend Christmas with his son. But when a brutal snowstorm cancels his flight from Chicago to Des Moines, Todd and a few other stranded passengers decide to rent a Jeep and make the trip on their own.

During the drive, they pick up a man wandering through the snow, who claims to be searching for his lost daughter. He is disoriented and his story seems peculiar. Strangest of all are the mysterious slashes cut into the back of the man’s coat, straight down to the flesh…

When they arrive at the nearest town, it appears deserted. Windows dark, car abandoned, fired burning unattended. But Todd and the rest of the travelers soon learn the town is far from deserted, and that they are being watched…

My Review: I LOVED THIS BOOK. I couldn’t wait to crawl into bed so that I could read it again, and that rarely happens.

Todd Curry is traveling to Des Moines to see his young son. HIs connecting flight in Chicago is cancelled due to a bad snow storm, but he is anxious to get home. He promised his son that he’d be there by morning. Todd and his son’s mother are separated, and he rarely sees the boy, so it’s important to keep his promise. Todd has the idea to rent a car and drive to Des Moines. Storm be damned.

The woman in front of him at the rental car counter gets the last SUV. Kate Jansen, a woman Todd had met at the airport bar while waiting to hear the fate of his flight, offers to give Todd a lift. He accepts gladly. Fred and Nan Wilkinson, a “silver-haired couple in their late sixties”, are also stranded at the airport. They decide to join Todd and Kate and together all 4 set off to Des Moines, with Todd at the wheel.

They have barely left the city, when they encounter a strange man in the middle of the highway, alone in the snow storm. “Suddenly, the figure was in the middle of the road, only a few yards in front of them as if he had materialized out of thin air.” Todd crashes into a snow bank and wrecks the SUV. They climb out of the car, to find a lone man standing in the road. The man’s name is Eddie Clement and his daughter, aged eight, is lost somewhere in the storm.

Something isn’t right about Eddie, or his story. “Kate put a hand on Eddie’s broad flannel back and led him to the Cherokee. Todd noticed two rips in the fabric of Eddie Clement’s flannel coat, one at each shoulder blade, each one perhaps five inches long. The fabric around each slit looked frayed.”

They four-some in the vehicle are skeptical. A man out in the bitter cold, alone, looking for his daughter for who knows how long…how isn’t he a popsicle? Why would his daughter run off in this weather? Nothing seems to make sense. As a reader, you get the feeling that something is terribly off with Eddie and it adds a layer of tension to the story. At this point, we are only 39 pages in, and the tension only increases with each page.

Seeking shelter, they walk to the nearest town. What they find there would change their lives forever, if they manage to survive that is.

By page 69, we learn that the town is virtually deserted. Where did everyone go? And then they encounter someone:

“A man was standing directly behind Nan, no more than five feet away. His clothes hung off him in tattered ribbons and were splattered with blood. The man’s eyes were dead in their sockets, his face as expressionless as an Egyptian mummy.” …

“The sound of the rifle fire was almost deafening.

In the street, the man’s head evaporated into a red mist. The body sagged forward, then dropped straight to the ground, its legs folded neatly beneath it.

Nan screamed and Fred cursed. Kate clawed at the back of Todd’s neck, gripping a fistful of hair.

Then something else happened. The headless body in the street bucked once, twice, three times. Hot blood spurted from the abbreviated neck and coursed like an oil slick across the ice. There was the impression of levitation, although the dead man never actually left the ground; rather, something from within the man’s body was rising up, up. For one insane moment, Todd actually believed he was witnessing the dead man’s soul vacating the body.

But this was no one’s soul. What rose up was a hurricane swirl of snow, funneled and compacted so that it was nearly tangible. It held the vague form of a human being, though as it continued to withdraw itself from the man’s body, Todd could see its arms–or whatever served as arms–were nearly twice the length of a normal person’s. It had no definable characteristics beyond the vague suggestion of humanity. And as it peeled away from the corpse–from out of the corpse–it hovered briefly above the body, nearly solid and comprehensible, before it dispersed into a scattering of snowflakes and was gone.

The silence that followed was thundering.”

Snow by Ronald Malfi, pages 68-69

I got chills reading that again — soooo good! At this point in the story, I was already hooked, but this entrenched me in the story further.

This book is probably one of the best horror stories I’ve read this year. I would give it 10 out of 5 stars (if that were possible). The writing is fantastic. I love the way Malfi paints the picture. The monsters were super cool, the storyline creepy as hell. I had a hard time putting this book down. A must read.

Friday 56, November 4, 2022: Snow by Ronald Malfi

Welcome to Friday 56! Hosted by Freda’s Voice, you turn to page 56 or 56% in any book or reading device and pick a sentence that grabs you.

She looked at the rows of houses they were passing, silent and dark and brooding. ‘Like there are people in there watching us.'”

Snow by Ronald Malfi

This quote is taken from page 57 of the book. Ronald Malfi is fast becoming one of my favorite horror writers, and of the three books I have read (two of which I have already finished), this one is my favorite so far.

Todd was on his way to visit his son for Christmas when a massive snow storm grounded all flights for the foreseeable future. Todd, who lives in NYC, gets stuck in Chicago and his luggage gets stuck on the plane. Instead of waiting for another flight, which probably wouldn’t be until sometime the next day, Todd decides that he is going to drive from Chicago to Des Moines, a distance of around 300 miles. He promised his son that he would be there in the morning, and he is hell bent on keeping that promise.

While waiting in line at the rental car counter, he runs into a woman who was supposed to be on the flight with him, and they decide to brave the storm in a rented SUV, along with an elderly couple.

Things take an unexpected turn for the worse when they encounter a man walking alone on the snowy highway. Todd barely misses hitting him with the car and they crash into a snow embankment, damaging the radiator. The man is frantically looking for his missing 8 year-old daughter, and the quartet decide to bring him with them to the nearest town to get help. But what they find in this town is nothing they could have imagined. It looks deserted, but then strange things start to happen….

First Chapter, First Paragraph, Tuesday November 1, 2022: Snow by Ronald Malfi

It’s First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday! Hosted by Socrates Book Reviews this is where you share the first paragraph of one (or in my case sometimes several) of the books that you are currently reading.

‘Mr. Farmer? Is that you?’

But she knew it wasn’t George Farmer. Even if it looked like him, it wasn’t George Farmer.

Wiping strands of sweat-slicked hair from her face, Shawna Dupree crouched below the counter inside the deserted Pack-N-Go. Too frightened to sit up and peer over the countertop, she managed to survey the store in the reflection of the tortoiseshell antitheft mirror above her head. The blood on her hands was starting to freeze to the rifle’s cold steel.

Snow by Ronald Malfi

Time Travel Thursday October 27, 2022

Time Travel Thursday is hosted by Budget Tales Book Blog. This is where I take a look back at what I was reading this time last year (or the year before or the year before that…) and compare it to what I am reading now.

Books I was Reading on This Day in 2019:

Title: Crazy Rich Asians

Author: Kevin Kwan

Book Length: 546 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary

Read Start Date: October 27, 2019

Read Finish Date: November 4, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm,

Rachel might as well have a target on her back. Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should–and should not–marry.

Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.

Series: Crazy Rich Asians is the first book in the 3-part series.

My Review: The book starts in 1986 with a bedraggled 8-year old boy named Nicholas Young who sits, soaking wet with his cousin Astrid Leong, in the lobby of a posh London hotel, the Calthorpe. Astrid’s mother had forced everyone to walk from the nearest subway stop because “it was a sin to take a taxi nine blocks” and so you can imagine how they must have appeared.

Nicholas’ mother and aunt attempt to check in to the Lancaster Suite, but are turned away by the racist general manager because they are Chinese (and being soaking wet hides the fact that they are stinking rich). When Astrid’s mother calls her husband to tell him of this outrage, Mr. Leong calls the owner of the hotel (they played golf together only the month before). A few minutes later, Lord Rupert Calthrope-Cavendish-Gore himself is guiding the Young / Leong families through the lobby. Harry Leong had bought the hotel, the racist general manager was surreptitiously fired (ha!), and we are introduced in a very fun way to the wealthiest families in Singapore.

The real story begins in 2010, when Nicholas Young is 32 years old. He works in academia, and his girlfriend Rachel Chu has NO IDEA that he is ridiculously rich. When his childhood friend is getting married, Nicholas invites Rachel to accompany him to the wedding in Singapore (and to stay for the summer), and of course, while they are there, to meet his family. What he doesn’t tell her, is that his family’s’ house rivals that of Queen Elizabeth, and that he is Singapore’s most eligible bachelor. Oops.

This book was just simply fun, amazing, and at the same time heartwarming. I felt really bad for Rachel who is thrust head first and without a clue into the shark tank of single ladies all vying for Nicholas’ attention. Rachel has to go through all sorts of trials and tribulations that would have scared off anyone — from being called a gold digger, to the dead fish in her luggage, Rachel has to overcome some pretty awful harassment. I really liked that there was no fairy tale ending, and that the relationship was left with a question mark (I guess to be answered in the 2nd book in the series).

I also liked that this book didn’t only center around Nicholas and Rachel, but was also very much about the other characters. I especially liked Astrid Leong and the fact that even though she was also super rich (she easily spends more on one dress then I make in a year) she is also, somehow, down to earth.

Would I recommend this book? 5 times yes!

Title: City of Girls

Author:  Elizabeth Gilbert

Book Length (Audiobook): 15 hours 8 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction

Read Start Date: October 20, 2019

Read Finish Date: October 27, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: In 1940, nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris has just been kicked out of Vassar College, owing to her lackluster freshman-year performance. Her affluent parents send her to Manhattan to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns a flamboyant, crumbling midtown theater called the Lily Playhouse. There Vivian is introduced to an entire cosmos of unconventional and charismatic characters, from the fun-chasing showgirls to a sexy male actor, a grand-dame actress, a lady-killer writer, and no-nonsense stage manager. But when Vivian makes a personal mistake that results in professional scandal, it turns her new world upside down in ways that it will take her years to fully understand. Ultimately, though, it leads her to a new understanding of the kind of life she craves-and the kind of freedom it takes to pursue it. It will also lead to the love of her life, a love that stands out from all the rest.

Now ninety-five years old and telling her story at last, Vivian recalls how the events of those years altered the course of her life – and the gusto and autonomy with which she approached it. At some point in a woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time, she muses. After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is. Written with a powerful wisdom about human desire and connection, City of Girls is a love story like no other.

My Review: I had some reservations in reading this book because I really hated Eat, Prey, Love — but I thought that maybe Gilbert’s fiction writing would be better than her nonfiction. At first, I had a hard time getting into the story, because I really disliked the main character, Vivian. Vivian was basically a self involved narcissist who thought the world revolved around her — and if she said she was pretty once, she did it 100 times. Vivian was a naive little rich girl — who, if you could believe it, didn’t really seem to know that there was a war on — even though this book takes place during WWII. It actually got a little annoying, how self centered this character was. To be honest, I was kind of feeling a little nostalgic (in a bad way) about Gilbert’s memoir.

At the beginning of the book, Vivian receives a letter from the daughter of an old friend, Angela, who asks Vivian what Vivian had mean to Angela’s dad. Vivian, instead writes a letter back to Angela, explaining what her dad meant to Vivian. The premise seems a little far fetched — I mean, how long was this freaking letter?? Anyway, since the letter was supposed to be about what Angela’s dad meant to Vivian, it was annoying that he wasn’t introduced until after 85% of the story had already been told. I mean, really?

And haven’t we all gotten past the “shock” of thinking of women as “sexual beings”? Sometimes I felt that Gilbert only set the book in the 1940’s so that a woman having a lot of unmarried sex was somehow “shocking”. I felt this way because I never really got the flavor of 1940 in her book, and even though WWII was the biggest thing happening at the time, it played such a minor role in the book that it was as if it didn’t even exist.

Despite my thoughts above, lots of reviews that I have read were actually pretty positive (i.e., Kristin Kraves, Carla Loves to Read, and Theresa Smith Writes. In deciding whether to read this book, you should take both perspectives into account.

What I’m Reading Now:

The themes of the above books are very different. One is a horror novel (Snow) and one is a memoir (Crooked Lines). Neither theme is what I was reading this time 3 years ago, but I am known for my eclectic reading preferences, so it isn’t a surprise.

Snow by Ronald Malfi

Todd Curry wants nothing more than to spend Christmas with his son. But when a brutal snowstorm cancels his flight from Chicago to Des Moines, Todd and a few other stranded passengers decide to rent a Jeep and make the trip on their own.

During the drive, they pick up a man wandering through the snow, who claims to be searching for his lost daughter. He is disoriented and his story seems peculiar. Strangest of all are the mysterious slashes cut into the back of the man’s coat, straight down to the flesh…

When they arrive at the nearest town, it appears deserted. Windows dark, car abandoned, fired burning unattended. But Todd and the rest of the travelers soon learn the town is far from deserted, and that they are being watched…

Crooked Lines by Jenna Zark

When you part company with the life you’ve been living, how do you start a new one?

While trying to sort out the answer to this question-along with the question of what being Jewish meant to her-Zark began writing. This book was born of the journey. Married to the cantor of a Jewish synagogue, trying to fit in to a life she hadn’t anticipated, Jenna Zark is completely unprepared when her marriage falls apart. Now staring down the prospect of being a single mom, Zark has to decide if and how to work with her former husband, now co-parent, to give her son a Jewish heritage. While the holidays and rituals in these pages are Jewish, the theme is universal and familiar for anyone who has ever experienced lifetransforming loss. Crooked Lines is Jenna Zark’s honest and compelling story of navigating divorce, single parenthood, interfaith marriage, and losing parents while holding on to one’s humor and traditions.