Review | The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

“Hollowness: that I understand. I’m starting to believe that there isn’t anything you can do to fix it. That’s what I’ve taken from the therapy sessions: the holes in your life are permanent. You have to grow around them, like tree roots around concrete; you mold yourself through the gaps” 3/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: perfect couples, abandoned clothes, tombstones, fake jobs, helpful roommates, drinking problems, blackouts and train rides.

I have to admit I’m kind of disappointed. I honestly didn’t think it was a bad book, but this book was so hyped and everyone under the sun has already read it, so I wanted to read it too. Not only that, but I found the synopsis very interesting!

At first I was excited with the book format. The first few chapters are from the perspective of the “girl on the train” and it is divided in two sections – morning and afternoon – which is the time she was on the train to go to London and then later to come back. During these trips she talks about the perfect couple she has been watching every time the train stops at the red light. She even gave them names and imagined what they did for a living and what they thought – kind of creepy to be honest. Until the day she saw something that was not supposed to happen.

I was super into the book until the perspectives started to change and the train rides were no longer that important. I think if the story was solely told in her perspective during the train rides, it would be a really different, cool book.

Unfortunately I don’t understand the hype. The book itself is not bad and the writing is good, but the plot was predictable and there was nothing special about it. From an early stage I predicted the main “mystery” and I really hoped I was wrong because I wanted to be amazed. With that said, I had a difficult time putting the book down because I really wanted to know what happened next.

Also, I’m noticing a pattern of main female characters with destroyed lives with drinking problems in some thrillers and dramas. Is this a thing?

This was on the top of my to-be-read pile and I really wanted to love this and be amazed, but it was just okay.

xoxo, Neide

Review | Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #1) by Neal Shusterman

“My greatest wish for humanity is not for peace or comfort or joy. It is that we all still die a little inside every time we witness the death of another. For only the pain of empathy will keep us human. There’s no version of God that can help us if we ever lose that.” 5/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: rings, gleanings, home cooked meals, scythes, corruption, colorful robes, journal passages, immunity and deadly weapons.

I fell in love with this book. I’m already a huge fan of dystopias as it is, but I’m surprised with how much I liked this! Well, I know I’m about five years late to this party, but the third book in the trilogy came out last year and I still see reviewers raving about this series. I know it is not recent but I still want to share my review nonetheless, just because I feel like this book deserves to be discussed and shared with the world.

This book is placed in a dystopian world where society finally reached the greatest achievement in human history: immortality. This means that nobody dies of natural causes or diseases, and therefore the population keeps growing and the resources available will eventually end. To correct this issue, there are designated people named scythes that are responsible for killing people – or like they prefer to call it, gleaning – in order to control the population number. Thanks to the nature of their work, scythes are very respected – and of course, feared – within the society. Fortunately – in theory -, future scythes are chosen by their character. If you hate the idea of killing other people and you have a very high moral, you are perfect for the job. Scythes should never take pleasure in killing other people, and they are expected to always do it in a respectful way, not only for the gleaned person but also for their families.

This story starts with scythe Faraday who decides to take a girl and boy – Citra and Rowan – as his apprentices. Since scythes rule almost everything, the teenagers didn’t have a choice and couldn’t refuse the apprenticeship. So this story is about them being horrified with the idea of gleaning and their journey in the apprenticeship to become scythes.

I didn’t think I would like the story, just because it’s not the usual type of book I usually reach for, but the truth is that there were so many elements that made me love this book.

Let’s talk about the story itself first. Can I get an amen for a true, original story? The concept is so original and inspiring, I don’t even remember reading a book similar to this. Not only that, but the writing is beautiful. Neal Shusterman sure knows how to write a great book. I found so many discrete quotes and lessons that I loved, and that are very accurate metaphors of our real life. Another thing I really enjoyed was the journal passages. Showing what scythes wrote in their journals – about how they felt about what they did and their thoughts in general – added so much to the story and to character development. The story is complex, has depth and is very well structured to the point that all the different elements go together smoothly. There is always something going on and the story progresses with a great pace. There are many crazy, tense moments and some plot twists in between, so you will not be bored!

I really like the format that he chose for the book. The book is told in both Citra and Ron’s perspectives. It was very cool to see how they bonded and how they had each other’s back during the apprenticeship. I not only liked the apprentices, but I liked every single character presented in the book – even the evil ones. Each scythe and each apprentice has its own personality and characteristics that make them special.

I always appreciate small details in books and one of my favorites from this book are the scythes’ names. I like how they get to choose their own name, based on important figures of history – Faraday and Curie were definitely my favorite. Another detail I loved was how they keep referencing events that are happening in our time and are considered history to them. Those passages acted like a bridge from our real/present life to that society in the future, and I found that very interesting.

Books like these remind me why I love reading so much. It has a very unique concept for a dystopia. I recommend this to everyone! Even if you think this is not your style, please give it a chance and you won’t regret it. I honestly would love to see this in a movie adaptation. I’m looking forward to continuing the series.

xoxo, Neide

Review | Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce

“Actions have consequences.” 2.5/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: anonymous text messages, train rides, secret cameras, too many drinks, trolleys, broken frames and blood oranges.

Let me start by saying the two main reasons I decided to buy this book: the cover and the title. I know it’s a shallow reason, but just take a second look at that cover. Slices of orange with blood drips? It is absolutely stunning. I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame and I knew for sure that I had to read this book. Not only that but the title made me very curious about how an orange can be the main title of a thriller book. In my mind, this was going to be epic!

Oh, but I was wrong. I don’t even know where to start with this review. The book is about a woman named Alison. She is a lawyer and she lives with her 6-year-old daughter and her husband. The thing is that she has a drinking problem, most of the time she is not there for her daughter and to top it all, she is cheating on her husband with a co-worker. There is a parallel plot where Alison is the lawyer responsible for defending a woman accused of killing her husband with a knife. Supposably there should be some mystery around this as well. And well… that’s the story.

I know it sounds like there would be more to the story, but there really isn’t. The writing itself is good, but I found the pacing very slow and the character’s narrative was very repetitive. I can’t even tell how many times she did and told the same things: how she wanted to be a better mother and how she wanted her affair to finish, and yet she continued to drink until blacking out and she kept meeting the other guy. I kept reading the book and I kept wondering when anything interesting and different would happen.

I thought there would be more pages and information about the case that she was working on. But the “big” mystery around it was actually very simple and predictable.

Regarding the characters I wasn’t impressed as well. There was not a single likeable character in this book! And of course, as you can probably tell by now, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Alison. She is not a likeable character and she kept telling herself she was going to do better but she never actually made an effort like she thought. I just couldn’t feel sorry for her – and I really tried.

Then the end comes and there is the shocking part of the entire book. I admit I was disturbed and I didn’t see that coming, but it still wasn’t enough to make me like the book. 

I wouldn’t even describe this as a thriller. There is some mystery around the murder that she is investigating and the end is disturbing. Other than that, I didn’t find anything special from this book. But maybe I had high expectations.

But the part that disappointed me the most was the blood orange thing. I mean, c’mon! The book is literally named Blood Orange! I’m not going into much detail on this to not spoil the story, but I’m really disappointed.

I really wanted to love this, but it just wasn’t for me.

xoxo, Neide

Review | Whatever Works by Thalma Lobel

“The only time a disorganized office can be an advantage is when you are working on a problem that demands creativity.” 4.25/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: dim and intense lights, privacy, creativity, colours, emotions, nature, walks, music, negotiations, handshakes, open spaces, and messy desks.

By the time quarantine started I’d already started working remotely. At first I had a hard time defining a healthy daily routine for myself, creating a good working environment, and most importantly, defining the fine line between my personal life and work. And even though I’ve finally found my balance, I’m always willing to improve my working conditions and make the most out of it. So I decided to pick up this book because I thought it would be perfect for my current situation.

The book is divided into three sections: the first part is dedicated to how your environment affects you and how you can use it for your advantage; the second part focuses on how relationships and communication with your co-workers affect our work; and the third part how our personal habits have power over our performance and creativity.

First of all, I was very surprised to see that this is not a book only based on the author’s experience and opinions, but it’s mostly based on scientific studies. Each chapter focuses on a specific topic – such as light, open areas, music, temperature – and several studies and results that were made on that subject are presented to the reader. The cool part is that in the end of each chapter – and sometimes in the middle – there is a small note in a post-it format with a conclusion and tips on how we can apply what we learn after reading the chapter.

I applaud the author for all the research made and commitment to write such a complete guide on improving your work. I would say this is a book more focused on ways of increasing performance and have better communication and relationships with your co-workers. The second part unfortunately will only be useful when I return to the office, but I found the first and third parts very helpful for the times we are living in right now. 

I didn’t know what to expect at first, but I found some useful information that I will definitely apply in my daily life. If you are interested in learning how your environment affects your productivity and how to use small simple ways of increasing your productivity, this is the book for you!

A big thank you to NetGalley and BenBella Books for the free ARC in exchange for an honest review!

xoxo, Neide

Review | Vicious (Sinners of Saint #1) by L.J. Shen

“I used to think of you as a villain, but you’re not my villain. You’re your own villain.” 3.25/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: cherry blossoms, christmas leggins, sentimental shoeboxes, chewed pencils, funerals, cold mansions and diner shifts.

Well, this was something.

This story follows the relationship between Vicious – yes, that is his name – and Emilia. They met when they were in high school and they never got along. He was always very mean to her, but that didn’t stop her to love him. Still, she dated his best friend and tried to ignore him and his attitude the best she could. Now, after ten years, he is a powerful lawyer with his own company, and she works as a waitress in a local diner. They meet again in the diner where she works in New York, and with that, their feelings reappear stronger than ever.

I must admit, this reminded me a lot of Fifty Shades of Grey. Well, in this case there is no BDSM and the dominance aspect is not as strong, but the theme is very similar. Both books tell the story of a powerful, dark man infatuated by a humble, sweet woman. Overall the book was okay, I just wasn’t into the way he treated her most of the time. The male lead is very damaged and borderline abusive towards the girl. I’m actually into dark romances and enemies-to-lovers stories, but this didn’t do it for me. I get that he went through a lot in his past and everything, but it shouldn’t be an excuse for his behaviour. I feel like he was mean to her so many times, and always in very unnecessary ways. But hey, that’s just my opinion and what do I know? I’m glad he gets a little better in the end, but overall I didn’t like him.

If you are into dark romances, enemies to lovers stories and a-hole heroes, you will probably like this book.

xoxo, Neide

Review | The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

“Champions don’t do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they’ve learned.” 5/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: lab rats, memory loss, the song “Hey Ya” and very known brands such as Pepsodent, Febreeze and Starbucks.

Easily one of the best self development books I’ve ever read!

Habits play a huge role in our lives and sometimes we don’t even notice it. We create patterns that shape our lives and our reality every single day. Maybe you overeat, maybe you spend your money without thinking, maybe you smoke or maybe you bite your nails when you’re stressed. These behaviours are imprinted in our brains and sometimes it is very difficult to stop them.

If you are interested in stopping those behaviours in a successful way, it’s very important to understand how habits work and how your brain is wired. Fortunately for us, Charles Duhigg wrote this amazing book that tells us everything we need to know about habits in a very practical way.

The book is full of real life experiences of people who got through their bad habits. There is so much information on how we create habits, how our brains work and so much more. There are also some chapters about how organizations and companies – such as Starbucks, Febreeze and Pepsodent – use marketing to manipulate us on a daily basis through human patterns and consumer habits.

I learned so much with this book and I’m already applying the concepts in my life! This book is a must read for any self development lover and anyone who wants to have control over their lives. Highly recommend it!

xoxo, Neide

Review | The Guest List by Lucy Foley

“The rituals, the male bonding. When we get together there’s this kind of pack mentality. We get carried away.” 3.75/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: baby seals, secret notes, gold crowns, graveyards, mansions, deserted islands, death birds, wedding cake and seaweed.

People usually say that this book reminds them of Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None”, but I honestly don’t think it’s even similar. Sure, it’s also a murder mystery story and there is the stuck-in-an-island aspect, but other than that the stories have nothing in common.

One of my favorite things was definitely the set up and the atmosphere. The island has a very eerie feeling to it! The author did a great job creating a feeling of unease and heaviness in every page. Even the group of guys gave me really weird vibes with their conversations and behaviours.

I also liked that the story was complex and layered. In every chapter you discover something new that changed your view of what’s happening. I personally wasn’t the biggest fan of the pacing just because you only know who was murdered in the last chapters. There is a lot of build up and new information coming in, but I think it would be more interesting to know earlier who the victim was.

Overall it was a good book and I was entertained. If you like murder mystery books this is a good one to pick up.

xoxo, Neide