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review 2020-07-02 17:29
The Mystery of the Blue Train
The Mystery of the Blue Train - Agatha Christie

I re-read this previously back in 2014. I gave it 3 stars then, but gave this 4 stars now since I appreciated this one a bit more the second time through.


Previous review:


We have the famous Hercule Poirot on the scene again investigating who murdered heiress Ruth Kettering.


When the novel begins we are introduced to many characters who will come to play some importance in showing how and why Ruth Kettering was murdered on the Blue Train she eventually takes for a rendezvous.


Though I am happy with the pains Ms. Christie took to provide depth and understanding to all of the characters I felt myself impatient since I wanted to get to Hercule Poirot.

After the disappointment of the "Big Four" I was glad to see that this was a classic who dun it and we don't have Poirot investigating a crazy crime syndicate in this one. However, there was still some disappointment.


A character we are introduced to in this novel, Katherine Grey, takes up a great portion of this story. She apparently is just one of those women that when a man meets falls instantly in love with her. I wish that there was some other reason for that since I myself couldn't see it. Though it was nice to read about St. Mary's Mead (home of Miss Marple) I rather would have had Miss Marple and Poirot meet in this novel and she help him solve the murder.


Additionally, when we get to the final who and why of the murder it makes no sense. Frankly for all of the pains that were taken the murderer could have taken up other means to get what they wanted without murder especially when you find out the person's reputation.


I was not at all surprised to find out that this was one of Christie's least favorite stories. This just didn't have quite the same oomph of her other novels. I still say my least favorite is "The Big Four" though.


One funny thing that I read was there was the discussion of trains and how "journeys end with lovers meeting" which quickly made me think of "The Haunting of Hill House" which creeped me out quite a bit.

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review 2020-06-29 14:53
How to Train Your Dragon - Cressida Cowell

For more reviews check out my blog: Craft-Cycle

I really did not know what to expect going into this. I absolutely love the movies that this book inspired and wasn't sure how they would compare to the book series.

To start off, the movie is vastly different from the book. It doesn't really follow the book at all. The plot is different. The characters are slightly different. Even Toothless is different. That's not a bad thing, but for people who have seen the movie, don't expect that book to be anything like it. The movie takes the very basic elements and build upon them.

Having said that, the book is amazing. I really enjoyed it. After I got used to how different it is from the movie, I was complete absorbed in it. Fun writing style (I always love Cowell), great development. Such a pleasure to read.

There were some things I did like better about the movie. There are very few women/girls in the book so I do really like the incorporation of more females in the movie. There were also some quite graphic and gory scenes I wasn't expecting. Exploding dragons, eating sheep, cannibalism. More violent that I was expecting, but still a very entertaining and fun book.

Overall, a great read. I already have the second book and will certainly be continuing this series.

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review 2020-06-18 03:14
Review: The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton
The Last Train to Key West - Chanel Cleeton

Reviewed for Wit and Sin


Chanel Cleeton blends beauty and tragedy with The Last Train to Key West. I fell in love with Ms. Cleeton’s writing a few years ago but there’s something gorgeously romantic about her historical fiction writing in particular that never fails to captivate me.

The Last Train to Key West is the journey of three very different women set against the backdrop of one of the most powerful hurricanes in history. Elizabeth Preston is a former society girl who has been abandoned after her family lost everything in the stock market crash. She flirts as easily as breathing, but what most men miss is the spine of steel and bravery beneath the beauty. She flees an engagement she doesn’t want in New York and is headed to Key West to look for someone she hopes can save her among the veteran camps in the outlying areas. Mirta Perez’s family is in a precarious position after the Cuban Revolution of 1933. She finds herself in Key West on her honeymoon with a near-stranger who saved her family. Mirta has wealth and grace on her side, but when her husband’s dangerous business comes to light and threatens her life Mirta’s true strength comes out. And finally there’s Helen Berner, a pregnant Key West native trapped in an abusive marriage. The kindhearted waitress is in a desperate situation and has every reason to be fearful of her husband. Like Elizabeth and Mirta, Helen’s true strength comes out when she’s backed to a wall. I loved watching all three women come into their own over the course of the story.

Each woman is strong in their own way, possessing an inner fire that most don’t see. I loved each of their journeys and the men who wind up capturing their hearts. The powerful and dangerous Anthony, the steady and true John, the quick and reliable Sam… Like the women, each man has a distinctive voice and personality. However, to say too much about them would spoil the journey of discovery. I loved watching the three different storylines weave in and out of each other in the days leading up to and after the hurricane. Ms. Cleeton brings her characters’ worlds to life, blending fact and fiction beautifully. Each character’s background is well-drawn, the events of the hurricane are woven into the story perfectly, and added to that we learn about the veterans of the Great War who were sent down to the Keys and the horrible conditions of the camps. It sounds like a lot, but somehow Ms. Cleeton brings everything together perfectly and makes it all feel organic.

The Last Train to Key West is an utterly addictive read. The story is fast-paced and builds in intensity so much that by the climax I was glued to my Kindle. It takes a talented writer to deliver believable romances set against tragedy and Ms. Cleeton is more than up to the task. The Last Train to Key West is a gorgeous tale that is by turns hopeful and heartbreaking; it’s a story of love and survival that I enjoyed from beginning to end.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


Source: witandsin.blogspot.com/2020/06/review-last-train-to-key-west-by-chanel.html
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review 2020-04-07 02:25
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
Orphan Train - Christina Baker Kline

Damn life in the early 1900s was hard and the things that were allowed back then I can't even! Trains transporting hundreds of thousands of vulnerable orphaned children to be sold off like cattle. Appalling and fascinating and I devoured this book in a couple of days thereby breaking a bit of a slump I was having.  


A-Z Challenge - Adoption

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/3266842316?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1
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review 2020-02-21 22:58
Conspiracy theory, twist and turns, revenge and a touch of the supernatural
The Other People - C.J. Tudor

Thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin UK for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

I have read and reviewed the two previous novels published by this author (The Chalk Man and The Taking of Annie Thorne) and enjoyed them both, although, personally, I was bowled over by the first, and slightly less so by the second. This one, for me, falls somewhere in between. The premise behind the book is gripping, and it’s impossible not to put yourself in the shoes of the main character, Gabe, and imagine what having such an experience would feel like. The premise is quite intriguing; there are many twists and turns, and although thriller lovers might guess some aspects of the plot, the story is build up in such a way that it’s difficult to get the full picture until you’re quite close to the end. On the other hand, the supernatural element and the way the story is told might not be to everybody’s taste.

I will not go into a lot of detail about the plot, because I think the description gives a good indication of what readers might find, and I want to avoid spoilers. Some aspects of the story will seem fairly familiar to followers of the genre (and to those who also watch a lot of thriller, mystery, and action movies); the book itself mentions Hitchcock’s Strangers in a Train, and readers will think about many other films (I also thought about the Lady Vanishes, although more modern versions also exist, and similar movies where somebody goes missing and nobody believes the story of the person trying to find him or her, be it a relative, or a total stranger), but Tudor is very skilled at mixing what appear to be disparate elements and creating something new and fresh. There is also a good dose of conspiracy theory behind the story (a very interesting part of it, dark web and all, although perhaps one that is not explained in as much detail as some readers would like), and, as I have mentioned, a supernatural element as well. I enjoyed the overall story and how it was developed, although I got the sense that this is a novel best read quickly and taken at face value, as it does require a fairly large dose of suspension of disbelief, and if readers stop to analyse every little detail, they’re likely to find fault with it. The supernatural element means that people looking for a totally plausible and convincing thriller will be disappointed, but because that part of the story is not fully explained either, fans of the supernatural might feel cheated as well, although those who prefer the magical/unexplained elements of a story to remain open to interpretation, will be happy.

The story deals in a variety of subjects like grief, loss, revenge, regret, remorse, punishment, family relationships, truth and lies, love, making amends, and it questions our sense of justice. How far would we go to get justice if we lost a loved one due to somebody else’s actions? What would be the right price to pay? Can we truly forgive and forget? What about extenuating circumstances? Is an eye for an eye the only kind of justice we understand? And where does it stop? The three main characters (Gabe, Fran, and Katie) reflect upon very similar topics throughout the book, and there are many quotable and memorable fragments, although some reviewers were not too enamoured with this aspect of the novel, as they felt it detracted from the flow of the book (I enjoyed them, but sometimes the “kill your darlings” advice came to mind, and the reflections by the different characters were not always distinct enough to differentiate between them or help create an image of the characters’ personalities in the mind of the reader).

I’ve mentioned the three characters already, and they are introduced to us through their actions and the story —as we meet them in the thick of things— rather than as individuals with their distinct personalities and belief systems. We slowly learn more about them as the novel progresses, and we discover that although the story is told in the third person, mostly from the points of view of the three protagonists (but not exclusively), that does not mean we get an accurate depiction of their lives and past. While Tudor’s two previous novels where written in the first person, and both narrators were notably unreliable, I wouldn’t say the change in the point of view results in an objective account. In fact, by following the three characters —that we might suspect are linked although we don’t know how at first— we get different aspects and alternating versions of events that eventually fit together (and we also see each character through the eyes and perspective of the others). I am not sure how convincing I found any of the characters. I quite liked Katie, perhaps because I feel she’s the more consistent and well described of the three, and she tries hard to do the right thing. While I empathised with Gabe due to his situation (as most readers are likely to do), this was more at an intellectual level, rather than because of personal affinity, and for me, my sympathy decreased the more I learned about him, although I admit he is an interesting character. Fran… well, we don’t learn as much about her as about the others, and like Gabe, we discover things about her that make us question what we thought we knew (although less so than with Gabe). I did like the girl, but we only briefly get to see things from her point of view, and her reflections seem very grown up for her age, although it’s true that her circumstances are pretty unique. There is also a baddy, although we don’t learn who that is until the end (but I think a lot of readers will have their suspicions before they reach that point), a character that weighs heavily on the story despite not playing too active a role, and some pretty mysterious characters, that are not fully explained, especially one. Yes, I know I sound mysterious, but it’s truly intentional.

I’ve read some reviews complaining of the changes in point of view, saying that it’s confusing. I didn’t find it so, and as I said, I also enjoyed the character’s pseudo-philosophical reflections, although they did not always help advance the plot, but this book combines a variety of genres, and I felt the writing style suited the combination well. It is not purely action driven, and the narration is not just scene after scene pushing the plot forward, but that also helps give readers time to digest the story and to keep trying to work out how all the parts fit in. In my opinion, Tudor writes very well, and I wonder in which direction her writing will go in the future.

Just a couple of quotes from the book:

People say hate and bitterness will destroy you. They’re wrong. It’s hope. Hope will devour you from the inside like a parasite. It will leave you hanging like bait above a shark. But hope won’t kill you. It’s not that kind.

‘A fresh start.’ Fresh start. Like life was a carton of milk. When one went sour you threw it out and opened another.

Regarding the ending… Well, I’ve already mentioned that the supernatural element is not fully explained, and some readers were very annoyed by that, either because they felt it was unnecessary to the story and it detracted from the overall credibility of the plot, or because they thought that the supernatural aspect of the story should have been developed further rather than just introduced and left to readers’ imagination. There is a fair amount of telling at the end, and it did remind me of classical mysteries, where one of the characters would piece together the explanation after talking to everybody and getting all the facts, summarising the story to make sure everything was clear. The many twists mean that we get some false endings as well and there is an epilogue that finalises everything, introducing a hopeful note as well and one not as hopeful. As I have mentioned before, the ending makes sense in the context of the story, but this is not a police procedural, and I’m sure sticklers for details and those who are looking for something totally realistic might question it. Considering the many different threads weaved by the novel, I thought the ending was quite successful in bringing it all together, with the caveats mentioned.

In sum, this is a book I’d recommend to those who enjoy thrillers that combine a number of different elements, very twisty, not too focused on strict realism and consistent characters, and who don’t mind a touch of the supernatural. It is not a fast and quick thriller, but rather one that builds up at a slower pace, with detours that allow the reader to reflect upon subjects pertinent to the genre. Many interesting elements, intriguing characters, and good writing. I wonder where the writer will go next, and I wouldn’t mind following her into other genres.


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