Book Review: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins | rainerlife.com

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Into the Water
by Paula Hawkins

A single mother is found dead at a local spot known as the Drowning Pool. It is unclear if she slipped or jumped to her death, either way, her death is investigated.

The deceased woman is Nel Abbott, and her death brings out more questions about a teenager who had recently died at the Drowning Pool. The teen, Katie Whittaker, had committed suicide a month earlier at the Drowning Pool. Her death shocked the community because it seemed so unexpected. The novel centers around the story of these two women, but told from the other characters viewpoints.

There are a lot of characters in Into the Water. Each chapter has a point of view for a character, mostly a main character but sometimes a minor character. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t. This novel seemed a bit confusing with the hopping around of viewpoints.

The main characters are Jules Abbott (Nel’s sister) and Lena Abbott (Nel’s daughter). Minor characters are Louise Whittaker (Katie’s mother), Josh Whittaker (Katie’s brother), Nickie Sage (the town psychic), Mark Henderson (a teacher), Erin Morgan (a police officer), Sean Townsend (a detective), Helen Townsend (Sean’s wife), and Patrick Townsend (Sean’s father). Also, sometimes stories are told about other women who died in the Drowning Pool. Like I mentioned, a lot of characters, which means a lot is going on in the story.

I like Paula Hawkins writing, and I wanted to see where the story was going. I did think a bit too much was happening, and it was kind of predictable. I don’t mind predictable though, so I’m okay with that.

This story is pretty dark, which I liked. Truly, none of the characters are good people. It works for this book, but there is not a lot of character development on anyone in the story. The women were okay, some stronger and some weaker. I didn’t like that every male character was weak. I enjoy stories about strong women, but I also like to see strong men depicted in the story too. The only male character that was a decent person was Josh, and he’s a boy, not a grown man. I guess that was sort of the appeal of the book, nobody was perfect and they all had their secrets.

Book Review: The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn

The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn | rainerlife.com

This post contains affiliate links. That means I may receive a very small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase. More info here.

Two time travelers, Rachel and Liam, travel to 1815 London to steal an unpublished manuscript written by Jane Austen. Their mission is planned to last one year and involves them befriending the Austen family.

Not long after arriving in 1815, they make contact with Henry Austen, who they hope will like them enough that they will be able to gain access to the rest of the Austen family. Liam is posing as a doctor and Rachel as his sister. In reality, Rachel is the doctor. Rachel’s role is to flirt with Henry and get him to fall for her. She’s also supposed to use her medical expertise to help with Henry’s upcoming illness and help diagnose what Jane’s health problems were. Liam’s role is to gain access since he’s supposed to be a doctor, plus he is the more charming and charismatic of the two.

Their mission is complicated by two main things: the difficulty involved with not altering anything in the past and Rachel and Liam’s growing attraction to one another.

Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors, and I enjoy reading novels that have a different take on her life or her novels. The Jane Austen Project was creative, and I liked the combination of time travel and historical fiction. While I enjoyed the idea of the book, there were a few things that I didn’t like. For one, I liked Liam and his role, but I never cared for Rachel, or understood why she would have been chosen for the mission. Also, I wasn’t a fan of the ending. It seemed too abrupt, and while I liked some parts of the ending, I didn’t like other parts.

August 2017

Happy Almost Fall!

Our August was fun and relaxing! Gavin celebrated his birthday in early August, and we took him to Dallas for a couple of days to have some family fun. I wrote about our Dallas trip here. We were home on Gavin’s birthday, so we celebrated the day with lots of pool time and by going out to eat.

The birthday boy - Gavin turned 3 years old! | rainerlife.com

For the solar eclipse, we went to the local science place. They were handing out viewing glasses and had a few informative and fun activities. Gavin had fun, but he didn’t really understand the whole solar eclipse thing. We also went to the science place another day when it was less crowded. Gavin loves playing with the different activities they have available for kids to learn new things.

Gavin at Discovery Science Place | rainerlife.com

Gavin at Discovery Science Place | rainerlife.com

Gavin at Discovery Science Place | rainerlife.com

A new bookstore opened in town at the end of the month. Of course, we were there on opening day and managed to find a few books to buy. I got a lot of reading done in August, and have started reviewing books here on the blog. I’ve been reviewing books on Goodreads, but wanted to start including some reviews here. I’m mainly posting reviews of new books here on the blog.

Half Price Books | rainerlife.com

Reading with Rocky | rainerlife.com

We also spent a lot of time at home this month. We enjoyed the pool on nice days. We played with toys inside when it was too hot or too rainy.

Gavin playing pirate | rainerlife.com

Book Review: Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber

Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber | rainerlife.com

This post contains affiliate links. That means I may receive a very small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase. More info here.

Josie’s father, Chuck Buhrman, was murdered when she was a teenager. Her twin sister, Lanie, saw the murder take place and identified the killer, a neighborhood teenager named Warren Cave. Warren was found guilty and spent the next 13 years in prison. The book picks up from there, 13 years after the trial, when a new podcast renews interest in the mystery… and questions if Warren really did it.

After her father’s death, Josie’s family did not handle things well. The mother abandoned her daughters and joined a cult. The cult did not allow contact with outsiders, so nobody has had contact with her since the trial.

The twins spent their remaining teenage years being raised by their aunt. Josie was always the good daughter, while Lanie was the rebellious one. This resulted in several altercations while they were teenagers, and ultimately ended with Josie leaving and never returning to their small town.

After the twin’s mother dies, Josie decides to return home for the funeral. Once she arrives, she learns a few things have changed since she left, her sister being the biggest change.

The story is primarily told from Josie’s point of view. She is now in her late twenties and has distanced herself from her past, including moving and changing her name. She has a good job, a nice place to live, and a serious relationship with her boyfriend, who she’s never told the truth about her family history. She has never had any reason to question who killed her father, and only wants to put her past behind her.

Other parts of the book are transcripts of the podcast. Poppy Parnell, the investigative journalist who started the podcast, interviews everyone she can that was connected to the Chuck Buhrman murder case. The podcast has thrust the Buhrman family in the spotlight, and they are angry and upset with their family history becoming a casual topic to be debated online.

I had fun reading this thriller. It’s well written, and I loved the combination of traditional storytelling with podcast transcripts and social media updates (Twitter and Reddit). I see where this is touted as Serial meets Ruth Ware. The podcast in Are You Sleeping had the feel of Serial, and I couldn’t help but compare the two while I read. As for the writing, it’s a very readable thriller, similar in style to novels by Ruth Ware.

Are You Sleeping is Kathleen Barber’s debut novel, and I look forward to reading more by her.

Book Review: Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal | rainerlife.com

This post contains affiliate links. That means I may receive a very small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase. More info here.

Nikki is at a bit of a standstill in her life and is looking for a new direction. She dropped out of law school and is currently working as a bartender, much to the disappointment of her family. While at a local community center in a London Punjabi neighborhood, she notices a job posting for a creative writing class. She takes the job thinking it will help her resume and it will be a way she can save up some extra money.

At the first class meeting, she is surprised to learn that the women, who are all Punjabi widows, cannot read or write English. They are in class to learn English, not how to write short stories.

Before the next class, Nikki stops in a shop to purchase some materials to help the women learn English. On a lark, she also picks up a book of erotic stories to send her sister as a joke. While Nikki steps away from class, one of the women, the only one who can read and write English, notices the book in Nikki’s bag and starts reading aloud to the class. This leads to the women laughing and saying they would rather read and write stories like that than the children’s study materials Nikki has given them.

In a way, the class becomes a creative writing class after all. The women tell erotic stories, with the one woman who writes English writing everything down as the women tell them. Since it would not be safe for the women if others found out about what they were up to, they need to keep it quiet about what they do in class. Eventually, word starts to spread about the class.

This Punjabi neighborhood is a very traditional Sikh community. The widows were all in arranged marriages, some of which were not so good. They consider themselves to be invisible in the community. Nikki is a young woman who identifies as British and Punjabi and Sikh, but she leads a more independent and Western lifestyle than most in the Punjabi community. This opens the door for Nikki to introduce new ideas and help the women learn to express themselves.

I found Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows to be a very interesting read. It’s a story of immigrants, with a bit of feminism thrown in, plus some steamy storytelling. I loved how these lonely, isolated women became stronger and more independent as the story progressed. And it’s not just about the older women, Nikki learns a few things herself as the story moves along. It’s a great story about women being supportive of one another. It’s written in a lighthearted way, and is both amusing and uplifting.

I would consider this novel to fall under the genre of contemporary fiction, but be aware that the stories the women tell are erotic in nature.