Monday, 21 November 2016

Book Reviews: From Trains to Pirates to Wilmington.

21st November

This post is ridiculously overdue, but as they say: better late than never!

I bought so many books over the last few months that I'll have to take five years off work just to be able to finish them. I wanted to write a few reviews about the books I've read since the start of summer and I will warn you now: spoilers may exist throughout!

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

Pretty much everyone I've spoken to over the last year or so has either read this book or expressed interest in reading it. Now I'm not usually one to jump on the bandwagon, I usually wait a while before I start reading or watching something that everyone's raving about (Breaking Bad and Lost for example). I did have high expectations for this novel, and I admit I did watch the trailer before I read the novel so that could have had an influence on my opinion of it.

Narrative: “The Girl on the Train” is a mystery and suspense novel by Paula Hawkins. It follows the lives of three women – Rachel, Anna, and Megan – and the events surrounding Megan's murder, ultimately bringing the lives of the three women together. (Summary from Book Rags).

Out of 10: 7

Opinion: I did enjoy the novel as it's well written and flicking between the characters allowed the reader to delve into the minds of several characters and understand their emotions and the journey they've been on. Having a protagonist who isn't idealistic and has a substance problem was a breath of fresh air from novels who feel their protagonist has to be likeable and idealistic.
However, I did get bored with the repetitive way her mind worked and her obsession with her ex. It felt long winded and made me pity her rather than want her to succeed in the novel. Some parts of the novel seemed to be stumbling around in the dark and I must admit the outcome was quite predictable. Now, I can't be certain if this is just because I saw the trailer first; the trailer does highlight the general idea of "whodunnit" which surrounds roughly 5 characters. With this 5 or so characters it became easy to distinguish who were the "good" characters and the "bad" characters, and therefore easy to realise who the murderer was.
Overall, I did thoroughly enjoy the novel and it certainly has been written in a suspenseful way, however I found the protagonist too pitiful and the outcome too predictable.

Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton

This book is brilliant and is written by the same author who wrote Jurassic Park. Had I known this before I bought the book I could have braced myself for the incredible journey I was about to take. My love of pirates comes from the likes of Pirates of the Caribbean, Peter Pan, and The Princess Bride, and this book just added to my list of amazing swashbuckling adventures.

Narrative: The story stars the fictional privateer Captain Charles Hunter who, hired by Jamaica's governor Sir James Almont, plots to raid a Spanish galleon for its treasure (narrative summary from Wikipedia).

Out of 10: 10

Opinion: It's so accurately written to the period it's based on that I had to check several times to see whether it was in fact a nonfiction text. It's not sugar coated to suit the "glamourised" piracy era that we've come to see in the novels/films that I've stated above; it shows the gritty side of piracy. This novel reminds me of the TV series Black Sails, as they both portray what pirates were really like.
Crichton is a fantastic author who knows exactly how much information to let his readers have, and he offers the perfect amount of suspense without boring the reader. Like The Girl on the Train, the protagonist isn't likeable at all, and I honestly didn't care whether he succeeded in his quest or not. This didn't take away from the novel though; Crichton's writing ensured that I stayed interested in the novel no matter the outcome.
This is one of few books where I have no criticism, other than the novel wasn't long enough!

See Me by Nicholas Sparks

I'm a sucker for Nicholas Sparks novels. A lot of people always say "oh they're all the same" but it's not true for Sparks' novels! As a writer, I find it difficult to come up with the plot for two romance novels, let alone the countless ones that Sparks has written. Every one of his novels is, admittedly, slightly similar (in the same they're based in South/North Carolina and usually involve a tragic and/or inciting incident), but they're all written so differently and make me feel every single emotion humanly possible.

Narrative: A chance encounter on a rain-swept road will alter the course of both Colin and Maria's lives, challenging deeply held assumptions about each other and ultimately, themselves. As love unexpectedly takes hold between them, they dare to envision what a future together could possibly look like . . . until menacing reminders of events in Maria's past begin to surface (summary from Goodreads).

Out of 10: 9

Opinion: Like I said earlier, each Nicholas Sparks novel has something different to offer and this surpasses any expectation I had for the novel. The running theme with this blog post seems to be novels with a suspenseful element and See Me fits perfectly into this theme.
I didn't expect the novel to go the way it did.
I loved the careers that both characters have (well Colin is on his way to becoming a teacher), and I thought it suited the characters well. Colin and Maria were brilliant characters and I found it easy to like both of them. Their backstories became apparent early on and this allowed me to justify their actions. I loved the development of romance between Colin and Maria and at times I found myself going "oh I want that!" or "that's adorable!". The plot twists that occurred alongside the suspense made this novel an easy read, I think it took me a few days to finish, and the description is so well written that at times I felt I was watching a film rather than reading a novel.

The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks

After I finished See Me I remember I spent the weekend watching all the Nicholas Sparks movies I owned and then going to Waterstones to find a new novel of his to read. I found The Longest Ride on my bookshelf and realised I'd bought it a couple of years back and hadn't got round to reading it.

Narrative: the book centres on the star-crossed love affair between Luke, a former champion bull rider looking to make a comeback, and Sophia, a college student who is about to embark upon her dream job in New York City's art world (summary from IMDB).

Out of 10: 8

Opinion: Okay, so first of all I need to say that I have a massive love for anything to do with country boys, particularly those who wear cowboy hats. This love developed the first time I listened to Rascal Flatts' "God Blessed The Broken Road", a song that opened up my heart and ears to the amazing genre that is country music. I had no idea that this novel was about an actual cowboy (a modern one anyway) and if I'd known that then I definitely would have read it sooner. I love this novel. It's brilliant, it's unique but also offers the familiar style of Sparks' writing we all know and love, and it also offers a fresh writing style. A lot of Sparks' novels have characters that are early 30s or older, but this novel shows young adults who are mature and have a plan, which goes against a lot of stereotypes surrounding young adults. The struggle that these characters face is relatable in terms of jobs and money. The desperate and dangerous measures that Luke takes has to get money to help his mother is both sad yet justifiable. Sophia's difficulty in securing a job is something that all young adults can relate to. Art is one of those subjects where jobs are few and far between, and I'm glad that Sparks has highlighted this issue yet given it a happy ending. It does serve as some inspiration, although I must admit that Sophia's job prospects are due to luck more than anything else.

My only problem with this novel is the constant flitting between Ira and Luke/Sophia. I love the 1940s and the stories about how Ira and his wife fell in love was an adorable read, however, as the novel progressed I found myself skipping his chapters so I could continue reading about Luke and Sophia. I think Sparks could have cut down a lot of Ira's parts and focused more on Luke and Sophia's storylines, but I did love how the characters' lives linked. The last couple of chapters had me in happy tears, it was so beautifully written. I must also write how pleased I was at the movie adaptation. It's so rare to find a film adaptation that resembles at least 70% of the original novel, and the film worked beautifully alongside it's origin.

I haven't read a new book in a while; at the moment I'm balancing rereading War Horse and The Hobbit. The next books I hope to read The Magicians, The Butcher's Hook, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and The Strange Affair of Springheeled Jack. Keep an eye out of my review of these and I hope you enjoyed this post! If you've read any of the novels I've just reviewed then please drop me a comment and tell me what you think!

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