Tag: Relationships

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Posted December 24, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Thriller / 2 Comments

The Girl on the Train by Paula HawkinsTitle: The Girl on the Train (Goodreads)
Author: Paula Hawkins
Published: Transworld Publishers, 2015
Pages: 320
Genres: Thriller
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

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Every day Rachel takes the train into London and at a particular stop she likes to look out to the street and observe the row of back gardens. One house in particular is of particular interest to Rachel; she likes to imagine the lives of the couple living there, in which she has named ‘Jess and Jason’. They seem so happy, compared to her on life, she views them as a perfect couple. Until one day the minute stop allowed her to see something shocking, which leads Rachel to become a part of their lives. Rachel becomes more than The Girl on the Train.

I have to admit that I was a little hesitant going into this book; I thought it was going to try and replicate what Gone Girl did. While in the same vain with the multiple perspectives between Rachel and ‘Jess’, whose real name is Megan, The Girl on the Train stands on its own. While this book is already being compared to Gone Girl, I would just like to say that The Girl on the Train shares more similarities to The Silent Wife than anything else.

This novel plays a lot with the ideas of relationships and perspective; what may seem like a perfect couple on the surface can be a deceiving. Without going too much into the plot, I want to look at the way ‘Jess and Jason’ are perceived by Rachel. Obviously Rachel is an unreliable narrator, she only sees the couple’s house for a minute or two a day and not always the couple. To pass the time on her commute, she makes up this whole idea of what is happening in their lives.

The Girl on the Train does go a little deeper with exploring ideas of relationship, with a focus on abuse. Emotional abuse becomes a key component in the book and Paula Hawkins dives into the previous marriage of Rachel and even adding a couple of chapters from her ex-husband’s new wife. This thriller mainly happens on a psychological level and the reader gets an insight into the effects of emotional abuse.

There is a lot to be said about The Girl on the Train and I think this would make an excellent pick for a book club. Unfortunately reviewing a book like this makes it difficult, I am too worried about giving out spoilers and this restricts me from diving deeper into the themes within the novel. This debut by Paula Hawkins is not without its flaws; I think there was a missed opportunity to dive deeper into the major themes, however I did enjoy my time with this novel.


You by Caroline Kepnes

Posted October 22, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Thriller / 15 Comments

You by Caroline KepnesTitle: You (Goodreads)
Series: You #1
, 2014
Pages: 422
Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

A smile and a rant about books and Dan Brown from a beautiful woman is all it took. Joe Goldberg has a new obsession. Guinevere Beck is everything he ever wanted; she is smart, witty, and sexy but there is only one problem, she is not his. Beck doesn’t know it yet but Joe is going to do whatever it takes to make this relationship work.

You is a chilling psychological thriller about obsession and relationships. You starts off with a second person perceptive but it becomes apparent that the reader in never intended to be the ‘you’ Joe obsesses over. This unique viewpoint offers a weird and creepy insight into Joe’s obsession and slowly the novel morphs back into a more comfortable first person perspective. This really worked for me; I thought it was a great way to kick off the novel but I suspect this may cause real problems for other readers.

I am hesitant in reviewing this book because I really don’t want to give too much away. For me, this is much more than a thriller, this is much more than a book about obsession. This was a novel about relationships; the way we treat and try to possess others, manipulate others, as well as how much we really reveal to our partners. Sure, this is cranked up to eleven but the concepts are there, just explored in an extreme way.

What I loved about You was the way Caroline Kepnes takes normal relationship behaviours and just push them to their extremes. This allows the reader to look at relationships in a whole new way and explore how we treat others. Joe isn’t the only problem, every person in this novel explores a different behavioural trait and they all work together. While the overall feel for this novel is a psychological thriller, this relationship element is what made it work. The synopsis on the back of You calls it a “perversely romantic thriller” and that is the perfect way to describe this novel.

I know this book won’t be for everyone, there is a lot here that could put people off, however for me it was a perfect combination of thriller and relationship critique. The psychological element worked effectively to drive home some themes throughout the novel. You is one of the best thrillers I have read in a long time, it did something different with the genre and it was executed well. Caroline Kepnes pulled off a difficult task, I am looking forward to see what she comes up with next.


just_a_girl by Kirsten Krauth

Posted August 23, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

just_a_girl by Kirsten KrauthTitle: just_a_girl (Goodreads)
Author: Kirsten Krauth
Published: University of Western Australia Publishing, 2013
Pages: 272
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

“I’m just a girl, Take a good look at me. Just your typical prototype” – Just a Girl by No Doubt.

just_a_girl tells the story of Layla, a fourteen year old girl navigating the waters of adulthood and a budding sexuality. The novel is told from the three different perspectives, Layla, her religious mother Margot, and Tadashi, a stranger on a train. Through these three different sets of eyes we begin to see the complexities of growing up beginning to form.

This novel is marketed as “Puberty Blues for the digital age, [or] Lolita with a webcam”, a description that I’m not too pleased about but I can see where it comes from. just_a_girl (also Layla’s screen name) serves as a psychological look into a teenager’s life in a world that that forces her to grow up far too quickly. It is that type of thought provoking novel that gives you far more questions than answers.

What I loved about this book is the way that Kirsten Krauth looks at the life of a teenager girl but never blames or suggests that her problems are the cause of one thing. Can we blame the internet for the struggles that Layla faces? Maybe, but it is not the sole cause. We could accuse her mother for being ignorant and too focused on religion but then what teenager wants to share that much detail with their parents? I could go on; there are so many little defining factors that make up this struggle.

just_a_girl is a novel that explores different facets of growing up, isolation, loneliness, friendship, love, relationships, religion, sex and the digital world. Layla feels like she has to navigate through life on her own and the reader gets to watch this progress from three different points of view. The three narratives all bring balance and complement each other; With Layla we have a sense of confusion and urgency, Margot provides some ignorance and concern towards her daughter in a stream of consciousness, while Tadashi has a gentle, quiet observation of what he sees happening.

The raw emotion that Kirsten Krauth invests into her debut novel is the real reason just_a_girl works. There is something real and honest with everything that is going on within the pages. This is both scary and uncomfortable but it raises so many important questions. I won’t list some of the questions I asked, it is something that each reader needs to discover for themselves.

Layla struggles to navigate her life, trying to make a connection is such great topic to explore and Krauth did it so well. I was very impressed with this novel, even if I would never associate it with Lolita; I think the two novels are vastly different and comparing to a masterpiece just isn’t fair to a debut author. I could stick all the standard ‘dark’, ‘gritty’ or ‘transgressive’ labels to just_a_girl but I would rather say that is thought provoking and asks some very important questions. It is nice to see a contemporary Australian debut take a risk and pull it off, I highly recommend just_a_girl.


The Unknowns by Gabriel Roth

Posted September 2, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 2 Comments

The Unknowns by Gabriel RothTitle: The Unknowns (Goodreads)
Author: Gabriel Roth
Published: Picador, 2013
Pages: 227
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Library Book

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Eric survived high school in the mid 80’s; the nerd that spent way too much time with computers and never really having any friends. Now he has millions from selling his dot com and lives in a beautiful apartment and living the life everyone dreams of. Except he never quite found love, that was until the glamorous Maya came into his life. It’s not easy trying to get the most alluring woman in the world to pay any attention to you at all.

When I was in high school I really wanted to be a writer, this is the type of story I tried to write. Not as well as Gabriel Roth, I don’t know how to be a writer. they always ended up too short and descriptive, I never knew how to write long form and tended to rush to the end. Don’t get me wrong, The Unknowns is not a typical nerdy love story; Roth showed me just what can be done with this type of novel.

If you think this is not the type of novel I would normally pick up and enjoy then let me tell you why I picked this book up. I consider Megan Abbott the queen of contempory noir and when she blurbs and tweets about a novel, I tend to pay attention. The Unknowns starts out as a nerd falling in love but then deals with the complexity of a relationship, in a slight noirish manner.

Maya may be the most beautiful woman Eric has ever seen but she comes with her own issues she has to deal with. Humans can be fragile creatures and sometimes it is hard to know just how deep the pain runs. When Eric learns about his lover and her emotional scars he is left wondering about the truth. Life is more complex than computer code.

I really enjoyed the way this book tackled relationships; from the start you have a geeky romance and then by the end you are reading about the complex human beings. Roth blends wit with a unique view of the world and human interactions and nails home a magnificent exploration into relationships. I like the way this book is a budding romance/coming of age novel but you look a little deeper and there is so much more to discover.

While Eric isn’t too similar to me, I remember life as an outsider (I still feel that way) and the feeling of trying to navigate the social waters. As you get older, it doesn’t get any easier and you are bound to make mistakes. I’m lucky to have found my own Maya and had to learn about relationships and trying to understand all the pain from their past can be a lot to deal with when you are socially awkward. I really identified with this novel and felt inspired to write again but then I realise I can’t write anything like this and never end up trying.

The Unknowns is a witty humorous contemporary novel full of so many human truths, when Megan Abbott tweeted me to tell me that this novel won’t disappoint she wasn’t lying. I’m not trying to name drop, Abbott is fantastic on Twitter and will happily answer any questions you might have and proves Twitter is the place to be. If you are socially awkward or are interested in the exploration of relationships then this book is for you.


Guest Review: A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar

Posted September 21, 2012 by jus_de_fruit in Contemporary, Guest Posts / 0 Comments

Guest Review: A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to KashgarTitle: A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar (Goodreads)
Author: Suzanne Joinson
Published: Bloomsbury, 2012
Pages: 384
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Last month, I was walking past our local indie bookshop, and outside they had a blackboard that listed some of the new releases they had in stock.  A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar was one of those, and the title drew me in. I had no idea what it was about and had heard nothing about it leading up to the release, but perhaps it was the mention of some foreign city that I’ll never likely experience myself.  I went in to try and find a copy to learn more about it, but I couldn’t find it, and then got distracted looking at other things.  Then it showed up at our house in one of those parcels of books my husband regularly receives, so I knew I had to read it.

A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar tells the story of a couple of people. In 1923, it tells the story of Evangeline English who arrives in Kashgar in disguise as a Christian missionary, as a way to protect her sister who had decided to become an evangelist. Inspired by the travels of Richard Burton, she decides to write a similar book, of which the title of this book comes from. With her bicycle as her own real sense of freedom, the reality of living in Kashgar never seems to meet the romanticised adventure in her mind. Her relationship with her sister changes, as Evangline tries to guard her from things that Lizzie doesn’t want to avoid.

In the present day, we have Frieda, who is at her crossroads in her life. Her job working with Islamic youth in various Middle Eastern countries causes her to be out of town a lot so her friendships have withered. She’s in a dead end relationship with a married man.  She then gets a letter saying an old woman has died and she’s the next of kin and she should come clear the house. Tayab is a refugee from Yemen, living in England with an expired visa and is on the run.  Their encounter of each other lead their lives on a new course, both having to confront some major issues in their lives.

Suzanne Joinson’s debut novel alternates between 1923 and the present day. Each time, I felt like I was longing to find out what was happening in the other story. As the story comes together, you realise that both the stories are connected and it left me thinking about how the actions of people in generations before mine have affected the choices I may make now without me even knowing. There is no real way to know how the lives of people we’ve never met unconsciously affect our decision making today.

As a Christian, I found the missionary aspect interesting. Full of people filled with faults, which I suppose is an accurate reflection of any church. Some trying to do the right thing, some trying to make amends for their own wrongs, and some on power trips trying to control others, whatever the risk. It seemed to be written very matter-of-factly and I don’t think it was in a pro- or anti-Christian way. I appreciated that.

I enjoyed this book; the story was beautifully written and can take you to a time and place not normally experienced by us.

This is a guest post by Mary; not only is she my wonderful wife, she is also my editor and helps moderate the Literary Exploration group on Goodreads. Big thanks to her for this post and everything she does to help me with this blog.