Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Playing Catch Up: My Bookish Thoughts on Books by Backman, Tansley and Hawkins

My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman
Translated by Henning Koch
Atria, 2015
Fiction; 372 pgs

First Sentence: Every seven-year-old deserves a superhero.

A Man Called Ove knocked my socks off earlier this year, and I was curious to see what author Fredrik Backman would come up next. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell She's Sorry is a sweet and at times heart-wrenching story about a young girl and her grandmother. At age seven, Elsa has no friends and is often the object of bullying. Her world is her grandmother, an eccentric woman who will break into a zoo to make her granddaughter smile. Elsa often takes comfort in her grandmother's stories about the Land of Almost-Awake where anything can happen. Elsa lives with her mother and her mother's boyfriend, and there is a new baby on the way. When Elsa's grandmother passes away, she is asked to deliver a letter--and after that, others follow. With each letter she is tasked to deliver, Elsa learns a little more about her grandmother and the people's whose lives were in some way touched by her grandmother.

Written from the perspective of Elsa, this novel tells the story of a young innocent girl who is quite extraordinary in her own way. The cast of characters in the novel are quite colorful from the "monster" to the "wurse" to the drunk to the rather serious and critical neighbor, just to name a few. People are not always what they first appear, their backstories being a big part of who they are and who they become. I came to care for many of the characters just as I did for Elsa.

Elsa's stories about The Land of Almost-Awake play a big part in the novel, the lands and lives of the people in that world paralleling those in Elsa's grandmother's real world. I was not quite as taken with this thread in the novel, preferring to stick to the "real life" characters and their struggles and revelations.

My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry is a heartwarming story: funny and sentimental, and at times heartbreaking. It is a story about family and friendship, and one about redemption. While I was not as enamored with this novel as I was with A Man Called Ove, I did enjoy this one.

Source: E-copy of novel provided by publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.



The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts by K.C. Tansley
Beckett Publishing Group, 2015
Crime Fiction (Paranormal); 256 pgs

First Sentence: The two weeks leading up to finals were the perfect time to do research at Gilman Library--if you needed to be surrounded by people.

Ghosts do not exist. At least that is what Kat Preston keeps telling herself. After an incident in her childhood when a ghost she tried to help attempted to take possession of her body, Kat has tried to block out that part of her life ever since. A junior at the McTernan Academy, Kat and her best friend are chosen to take part in a research project investigating an 129 year old murder, which took place on a private island off the coast of Connecticut.

Kat is nervous about the project with good reason, especially when told she will be accompanying a team to the island to view the murder site in person. Being that close to such an old place will mean facing her old fears--and possibly facing the ghosts she's tried to keep at bay.  Teaming up with Evan, a very scientific minded person, Kat feels a bit more confidant--even if she isn't too fond of the guy. Ghosts tend to avoid people who don't believe. And Evan is a non-believer. Things don't go exactly as planned while on the island. Suddenly Kat and Evan find themselves 129 years in the past, trapped in the bodies of a couple of the wedding guests. The only way to get back is to solve the murder, and hopefully break the curse tied to it.

K.C. Tansley has crammed quite a bit into The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts; murder, curses, betrayals, and family secrets abound. The novel got off to a slow start initially as the author set up the characters and the background for the story. Once Kat and the group were on their way to the island, I felt the novel really got under way and had a hard time putting it down after that. Kat and Evan, despite their initial animosity toward each other, make a good team as they work together to try and find out a way to solve the old murder.

I enjoyed the twists and turns in the story, the mystery of it all, but I do wish the characters had been more fully fleshed out. They seemed a bit two-dimensional. Still, all in all, it was a fun read, good for an escape.

To learn more about K.C. Tansley (psuedonym of author Kourtney Heintz) and her books, please visit the author's website and Goodreads.

Source: E-copy of novel provided by publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.



The Girl On the Train by Paula Hawkins
Narrated by Clare Corbett, Louise Brealey, India Fisher
Penguin Audio, 2014
Crime Fiction; 10 hours, 59 seconds

First Sentence: There is a pile of clothing on the side of the train tracks.

The more I read about this book, the more I wanted to read it. Even the negative reviews couldn't deter me. I decided to listen to the audio version, and am glad I did. The three women narrating the book wore their roles well.

It is difficult to talk about this book at much length without giving something away. This really is a book in which the less known going in the better. I will say that it isn't just a thriller. There is quite a bit of drama--the story of three women, each with their own problems and struggles and a string of bad choices. There is Rachel, the woman on the train. Megan, the woman on the deck. And Anna, a mother and wife not as secure as she once was in her marriage.

On her regular commute every day, Rachel passes a house in which she often sees a couple having breakfast. She imagines their life is perfect. She even gives them names and creates a story around them. One day, however, things are not so perfect. Rachel sees something that not only raises doubts in her mind but puts her on a downward spiral.

With each chapter, layers are removed as the story unfolds. The who, the why, the what coming more into focus, and the reader becomes more acquainted with each of the players, the women and the men in their lives. I love books that provide such thorough character studies and this one did not disappoint in that regard.

Early on I had a good idea of who was behind the main mystery. And then after reading a spoiler in an online book group which confirmed it, I figured it was time to just hurry up and finish the book.  I really liked the novel in the beginning, but it slowed down somewhat the middle, and when I set the audio book aside, I found it hard to pick back up again. Once I did dive back in though, I was hooked and it was hard not to keep listening even when I couldn't. I admit it did hurt my enjoyment knowing what would happen. Even though I had already figured it out even before coming across the spoiler, the anticipation of finding out if I'm right or not is always a rush for me in books like this. Knowing, took the fun out of it. I still really liked the book though. The audio version was very well done.

To learn more about Paula Hawkins and her books, please visit the author's website and Goodreads.

Source: I purchased the audio version of this novel for my own reading pleasure.


© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

24 comments:

  1. I've to read A Man Called Ove after reading all the rave reviews. And what a bummer for the spoilers for The Girl on the Train. I did enjoy the book but it was only an OK read to me, though. Still, I'm very curious what the author will be writing next.

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    1. Melody - Sometimes spoilers don't bother me, but the other times they do. Unfortunately, this was one of those times. I did like the book--such an interesting character study!--but it won't make my favorites list this year.

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  2. I think we all have high expectations after A Man Called Ove. I'm still looking forward to Granmother.

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    1. Kathy - I tried to keep my expectations realistic when beginning My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry, but it's hard, especially when you love a book. I don't know that my opinion would have been much different had I not read the other first though. I still really enjoyed it though and would recommend it. I hope you enjoy it too!

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  3. My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry - what an amazing title. Of the books you have shared this is by far the one that appeals to me.

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    1. Tracy - It is a great title, I agree! Probably my favorite title of the year. :-)

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  4. I haven't read any of these, but I'm definitely interested in the first two. I decided to give Girl on a Train a pass, but may still give it a chance at some point. I think it was the constant comparisons that made me lose interest in Girl on a Train.

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    1. Jenclair - It's not Gone Girl despite the comparisons being made to it. I was joking with a friend that I am going to start comparing every book to some random book completely unlike it just because. I did enjoy it overall.

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  5. I have a copy of Ove because you and another blogger really loved it so that was good enough for me. Of course, I have yet to read it but you know how that goes.

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    1. Ti - I do know how that goes all too well. :-) When you get to it, you'll get to it. Sometimes it's better to wait anyway, especially with books that are well-spoken of.

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  6. I forgot to add that Girl on the Train was good. I liked the tone of it and it made me want to keep turning those pages but the main character! Gah! I was tired of her drunken antics.

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    1. Ti - You know, I felt bad for the main character. I could see how she ended up in the situation she was in given everything that happened. So, I couldn't dislike her, not completely.

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  7. I think "My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry" is something I could get into. And "The Girl on The Train" sounds mysterious.

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    1. Nickle - I think My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry was such a heartwarming story. I hope you do read it! The Girl on the Train is good too, especially if you like drama mixed in with your mystery.

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  8. I had kind of the same experience with Girl on the Train. I started listening to it but never had any desire to go back to it after I stopped. It's not that it was bad it just didn't hook me. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry sounds so great and I do want to read A Man Called Ove. I hadn't heard of Ove until this latest came out and the title grabbed my attention!

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    1. Katherine - Exactly. It wasn't bad, but it just hadn't hooked me enough at that point. I hope you get a chance to try Backman's work. I think both his books are worth reading. :-)

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  9. I also didn't enjoy this Backman book as much as I did the first one. A Man Called Ove was truly epic! I didn't figure out the mystery in Girl on the Train until more than halfway through. But then I'm usually slow in figuring mysteries out.

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    1. Athira - It was a sweet story. I am glad I read it, but, yes, it wasn't as good as A Man Called Ove.

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  10. I read Grandmother and Girl on a Train. So so to the first, (maybe because the fantasy genre is really not me) but I liked the Train book very much.

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    1. Mystica - I enjoy fantasy, but the story within the story didn't work as wel lfor me as I would have liked, I'm afraid. I'm glad you liked Girl on the Train!

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  11. The Frederik Bakman book sounds interesting despite the fact that the story-within-a-story didn't work as well as it could have. But given all the Ove love, maybe I should start there?

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    1. Lark - I think it's a good place to start. :-)

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  12. I definitely need to give Fredrik Backman a try.

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    1. Stephanie - I hope you do! Especially A Man Called Ove. Although, this one was good too.

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