Tag Archives: adult

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

girlonthetrainAlthough perhaps not the most twisted, surprising whodunit/mystery thriller that I’ve ever read, I do give this book an A for atmosphere. Paula Hawkins did a wonderful job crafting the atmosphere of the novel—which was mostly set in a suburb of London. Yet with the rickety trains and the dark skies and Rachel’s (our primary narrator’s) inner demons, the atmosphere definitely feels a bit gothic. Also, I loved that Hawkins gave us not one, but the perspectives of three unreliable narrators. The first being Rachel, an alcoholic who has blackouts, the second being Megan, a young woman who we find out about a quarter of the way into the novel has died, and sometimes Anna—the woman who Rachel’s husband left her for. In the end, for me, I think the questions that the book poses are much more interested than the answer to the murder mystery. Can addiction be overcome? Is there such a thing as a second chance, a new start? Can you ever trust anyone, even the ones you love?
Hawkins does an excellent job weaving the three women’s perspectives together and creating the rules of her suburban London world. Honestly, though, I’m not a big fan of the thriller genre. I probably wouldn’t have read the novel if I hadn’t heard an interview with Paula Hawkins on one of my favorite BBC podcasts. I’d be interested to read her most recent novel, although I most likely won’t be picking up a mystery again for some time.


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The Oxford Inheritance by Ann A. McDonald

Oxford“Too soon, the next set of visitors arrived. These weren’t quite so temporary. They came bearing crisp new textbooks and fat induction packets, shined shoes and wide eyes, weighed down as much by their own hopeful expectations as the brand-new possessions they pulled behind them in overstuffed cases. Summer was over and it was time for a new generation of students to take their place in the hallowed roll call of Oxford’s great academic legacy.” ~p. 4

The Oxford Inheritance by A.A. McDonald is your quintessential summer murder mystery/academia/dark magic read. Everyone has those, right? Well I certainly do. This book met all of my own personal requirements for a great novel.

The following, by the way, are my criteria for a great contemporary novel:

  • Set in England: check.
  • Professors in tweed: check.
  •  Tough-as-nails yet brilliant heroine with a shady past: check.
  • Complicated love triangle: check.
  • A supernatural twist: check.

I wouldn’t say The Oxford Inheritance is going to turn your world upside down. The writing is decent: fast-paced and intriguing (as a supernatural mystery/thriller should be). There were definitely a couple of weak spots. Cassie’s cop friend Charlie being one of them–I felt that he accepted Cassie’s story way too quickly. Unless he already believed in the supernatural or had had an experience with it before (which was never explored), I just found his acceptance to be a bit too quick and easy.

I did like that the ending wasn’t quite neat and tidy. Cassie gets what she wants, but there’s a price and no doubt about it. However, since the tagline of the novel is “Privilege has a dark price” it didn’t come as too much of a shock.

I would recommend this for anyone looking for a good, intriguing mystery with a bit of supernatural thrown in. I certainly enjoyed that the setting is Oxford and you as a reader get to slip into the Oxford world (the author is an alumna).

All in all, I’m glad to have added this to my bookshelf!




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The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

therook Myfanwy Thomas (pronounced “Miffany” to rhyme with Tiffany, instead of the traditional Welsh pronunciation) wakes up surrounded by dead people wearing gloves with no idea who she is or what has happened. Her only clues are the letters her predecessor, the Myfanwy Thomas who inhabited her body before the complete amnesia, has left her. Pre-amnesia Myfanwy has also left her a high ranking position in Britain’s most top secret government agencies: The Checquy. The Checquy deals with supernatural threats and also acquires supernaturally gifted individuals for their various positions. They are given titles that correspond to chess pieces. Post-amnesia Myfanwy now has to pretend like nothing has happened and resume her post as a Rook with only the knowledge Myfanwy has left her in the letters, all the while continuing the investigation into which other high-level operative betrayed her and took her memory and her personality.

Personally, this book is 110% my cup of tea. It meets all of my requirements for an excellent fantasy novel. Intriguing main character? Check. Magical powers? Check. Girl power? Double check. Set in London? Check. Secret organizations that deal with magical threats? Check. Vampires? Check.

Besides being insanely fun to read and fast-paced in action, I really came to admire what O’Malley was doing in interspersing old Myfanwy’s letters into new Myfanwy’s story. It provided a break with the traditional, linear story of new Myfanwy and also some first person, epistolary narrative to break up the close third person. It also really made me like pre-amnesia Myfanwy just as much as the present heroine, post-amnesia Myfanwy. Come to think of it, it is actually quite brilliant that O’Malley managed to have two different heroines in one body–the perfect opposition for one of the bad guys, who is one consciousness in several bodies!

There are many cases of this quiet brilliance throughout the novel. I say quiet because I didn’t notice all the of the awesome things he is doing plot-wise and with the narration and dialogue and structure because I just had so much fun reading it! There are, of course, tons of jokes and references to other fantasy and supernatural series that complete nerds like me will totally enjoy. Perhaps the only flaw I found was that sometimes the dialogue is clever at the price of being realistic. But for me, that was just part of the charm of O’Malley’s style.

Anyway: the case is closed. I thought this book was brilliant and I recommend it to anyone who likes a little supernatural mystery to go with their afternoon tea.


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Persuasion by Jane Austen

persuasion “Who can be in doubt of what followed? When any two young people take it into their heads to marry, they are pretty sure by perseverance to carry their point, be they every so poor, or ever so imprudent, or ever so little likely to be necessary to each other’s ultimate comfort. This may be bad morality to conclude with, but I believe it to be truth…” p. 175

I’m not sure I’ll ever meet with a piece of writing by Jane Austen that I do not like, whether or not I agree with what she is saying. I am so glad that I decided to read Persuasion at this very moment in my life, rather than when I was younger and would have missed being able to empathize, at least just a little bit, with Anne Elliot. This is a shout out to all the single ladies my age, who are in their late twenties. It may be the twenty-first century, but I’m not so sure the attitude toward single women nearing their thirties has really altered outlandishly from Britain in the nineteenth century. Not saying it’s exactly the same, but I do think there’s some similarity in being told to hurry up, your eggs are dying as we speak and Anne being considered the “old maid” because she’d rather read than party it up in Bath. She is also not quite as pretty or social as her sister Elizabeth, who seems to have decidedly better chances at marrying even though she is older.

I know that both Anne Elliot and Fanny Price have a bad rap (or little rapport, since we’re talking Jane Austen here) with critics because they are so self-sacrificing and seem to be in cahoots with the infamous Angel in the House–a later, Victorian literary stereotype of women that caused a lot of issues. But just like for Fanny, I will stick up for Anne. Anne is not as vivacious or witty or winning as Elizabeth Bennet. Perhaps she is not as easy to love because she seems to cower in the shadow of her vain and silly older sister (cue Ashlee Simpson song “Shadow”). I hated that she took the advice of Lady Russell, but at the same time…how could she not? Lady Russell was basically the only person with any sort of common sense that Anne knew. But you know what, we’ve all made mistakes, am I right? And who wouldn’t like a second chance to remedy those mistakes or those rash decisions we made 7-10 years ago? And that is what we, as readers of Jane Austen’s glorious novel, get to experience in Persuasion. Thankfully, Captain Wentworth is the one that got away that also comes back (Hello, Sailor!–for all my peeps who watched Gilmore Girls). I did enjoy the chapter where Anne and Captain Harville basically have a fight over who is more generally faithful/loving in relationships, men or women, and all the while Captain Returns-A-Lot is writing Anne a passionate letter about how he never forgot her and how he still has the same feelings for her as he did when they were formerly engaged!

I think Persuasion is very much so a masterful novel and I am excited to next (at some point) re-read Emma, which I haven’t read since I was in high school.




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Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

neverletmego “My name is Kathy H. I’m thirty-one years old, and I’ve been a carer now for over eleven years. That sounds long enough, I know, but actually they want me to go on for another eight months, until the end of this year.” ~p. 3

Never Let Me Go is the story of Kathy’s childhood at Hailsham, a boarding school in the English countryside, and her young adulthood at the Cottages. There is something a bit strange about Kathy’s school–she and her classmates are all encouraged to create art, write poems, and above all, keep themselves in excellent health. They are told what their future lives are going to be like from a very early age, but somehow, sheltered by guardians and isolated in the English countryside, it doesn’t seem to matter that they won’t have the same kind of life as ordinary boys and girls. It doesn’t seem to matter to Kathy, until, all too late, she might have a second chance to be with the boy she always loved.

For me, more than anything, this novel is all about memory. I found Kathy’s meandering narration to be above all realistic, poignant, and poetic. There are parts that Kathy doesn’t remember, or parts that Kathy records her friends have a different version of, but that she chooses to remember it in the way that she wants. Never Let Me Go is a science fiction novel that feels more like contemporary fiction or even a memoir. It’s fast read, but one that you won’t want to rush through, because there is so much to consider. I’d say that Ishiguro really has the “tip of the iceberg” style of writing down to a T. I’d give it four out of five stars and recommend this book to anyone who likes thought-provoking, contemporary,  science fiction.



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Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name by Vendela Vida

Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name CoverI would never have read this book if I hadn’t first listened to an interview with the author, Vendela Vida, on NPR while working on a filing project at work.

I liked the way that Vida spoke and the stories that she told the interviewer. Her voice had a certain whimsical quality–at first I thought she must be a poet, not a novelist.

Later, I searched for her book, The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty, which had been the main topic of the interview, while I was selling some books back at Half Price. They didn’t have that one, but they did have a copy of Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name. On a whim, I decided to use the money I got from selling my books to buy this one, instead of holding out for her newer book.

I am very, very glad I did. Northern Lights tells the story of Clarissa, a woman whose father has just died. A woman whose mother left her when she was fourteen. A woman whose identity is shaken to the core when she finds out that her father was not her biological father.

Clarissa sets out on a journey to Lapland–to the Sami (the Indigenous people of Lapland)–to find her biological father, a Sami priest. On the way, Clarissa learns about her mother, about the Sami people, and even a little bit more about herself.

I really, really enjoyed this novel. Contemporary realist fiction can be a hit-or-miss for me. I usually want the fantastic, the extraordinary. And contemporary fiction can often times seem depressing, even hollow to me–the words are so carefully chosen, the sentences are so beautifully crafted, but sometimes I just feel like the FORM of the novel takes over the story.

In Northern Lights I felt that Vida did a good job of creating an intriguing story and balancing the beautifully crafted language she used to create it. Even as a first-person narrator, Clarissa retains an air of mystery. She is in shock and not even the reader is allowed to get too close.

My only complaint: more reindeer! I’ve always wanted to see reindeer. Now Lapland and the Ice Hotel are definitely on my travel bucket list!

Also, I liked how my hometown–San Antonio, Texas–was involved in Clarissa’s story. Vida could have chosen Austin, Dallas, or Houston–any of the cities I would have expected an NYC/California-dweller to have chosen. I might be biased.

I found a copy of The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty. At some point in my life (probably not this semester) I plan on reading that one as well.

Here is a picture of a Lapland reindeer for your enjoyment:


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The Duke and I by Julia Quinn

The Duke and I CoverA few years ago I received a recommendation to read The Duke and I, saved it to my “Want-To-Read” Shelf on Goodreads (thank you Goodreads), and then promptly forgot about. However, as this is my last week of freedom before school (and massive amounts of required reading) starts, I took a gander through my Goodreads account to look for something I could read for fun that would require little to no brain cells. Sure enough–I saw the Duke and I. I’ve never set very high standards for romance novels–I mostly view them as pure enjoyment.

And sure enough–Julia Quinn’s The Duke and I was every bit as enjoyable and fun as I thought it would be! I knew right away I would enjoy the story because it is an Avon Historical Romance (I used to read the YA versions–some of them penned by Meg Cabot under a pseudonym) and it is set in early, 19th-century England.

The story revolves around a young woman, Daphne Bridgerton, who is always just the “best friend” and never a love interest, and a young man, the Duke of Hastings, who wishes to be left alone from the ambitious mothers of London society who scheme for their daughters to marry him. Together, they form a plan, which involves some deception, to get what they both want. The story is fast-paced, the banter witty, and there are some fairly steamy romance scenes. Overall, I would say it was JUST what I needed currently. Was the plot twisted, was the description mind-blowing and the dialogue or character development earth-shattering? No. But it was incredibly fun to read and it made me laugh out loud. In short, if you are only the occasional reader of romance (like me) or are looking to pick up a historical romance novel for the first time, this first book in Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series is a great place to start! I know I’ll eventually get around to reading the sequels!

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