Need a good thriller in your life?

Hey readers!

I am finally getting around to blogging again. When I heard news that “The Girl on the Train” was being turned into a movie, I was equal parts excited and nervous. This was an outstanding thriller and I didn’t want it to be ruined because of the movie, so I recommend reading the novel first if you plan on watching the movie.

So, I normally do not read mystery/thriller novels, for no particular reason other than I always gravitate toward fantasy and/or YA Fiction. However, I spotted a novel at Barnes & Noble and I felt drawn to it. I am intrigued by trains and, honestly, it was the title that caught my attention. When I picked it up and read the description, I knew that it would be a thriller that I might actually enjoy. I walked my happy self to the counter and bought what I now consider one of the best thrillers of 2015!

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Official Summary:

A debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people’s lives.

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

A compulsively readable, emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller that draws comparisons to Gone Girl, The Silent Wife, or Before I Go to Sleep, this is an electrifying debut embraced by readers across markets and categories.

My Review:

I give this novel 4 stars out of 5. Hawkins does an excellent job of keeping the reader hooked and not losing track of the main plot. This novel is written from three women’s point of views, but the main protagonist is Rachel. She’s hit rock bottom in her life: her husband cheated on her and now they’re divorced. She’s an alcoholic, and for several months now she has been unemployed. Her daily routine is to take the train into London, even after losing her job. Rachel’s routine is how Hawkins portrays the main idea for this novel- the idea of observation. Ever heard of phrases that go something like, “We don’t always see things the way they truly are”? This thriller novel deeply explores that thought. The only negative comment I have about the novel is that I felt like there could have been some rearranging of scenes to add build up of suspense earlier in the book. It seemed to me like all of the real suspense and shocking moments were clustered together toward the end of the novel, and not enough spread out through the whole book. Otherwise, I highly recommend this novel.

NaNoWriMo!!

Hello fellow readers and writers!

I’m so sorry that I’ve been abnormally absent for awhile. I have been super busy with my first semester of grad school. I am studying Library and Information Science at the University of Oklahoma. I have never felt more at home. However, with everything that happened with my dad in the summer, I’m still dealing with a lot, emotionally and mentally, to really enjoy school right now. That depresses me even more… Big changes are coming up soon though and I plan to finish this semester strong and find a way to be happy about school for the rest of the time I’m here.

I read “Slaughterhouse Five” by Kurt Vonnegut for Banned Books Week, and I will be posting a book review soon. What I wanted to share in this blog post though was that I am participating in NaNoWriMo this year!

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I am working on a Young Adult novel that is loosely based on my experiences with being eating disordered (mainly in high school). Sharing a story about my struggles has always been a big writer’s block for me, because I was afraid to share my experiences but I also could not ever focus on writing anything else until that story was written. So, here I am attempting to write this story. One of my motivators for writing this story is the hope that if it is published one day, maybe my story could help someone who is currently struggling.

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this month, add me as a writing buddy! Search “thenovelgarden” and my profile will pop up.

Good luck, writers!

A Tribute to My Father

Readers,

I will make this a short post, but one that I felt compelled to write. My father, Kevin Kyle, died on June 6, 2015. I want to make this post a tribute to him because he was the one who gave me my inspiration to read and to become a writer. He was a reader and writer too. His favorite author was Edgar Rice Burroughs, and he fantasized all of the time about being Tarzan and living in the jungle- wild and free. He has written some poems, and he even mentioned that he wrote a book, although it was not in the works of being edited and published. My dad was my #1 supporter and fan of my writing, and he always knew what to say to get my spirit up when I started to doubt my writing.

I cannot express to you all how much I miss my dad. My heart hurts so damn much. However, it is a privilege to have had that bond with him through books and writing, and I will forever have him in my mind and in my heart when I write a poem, write a short story, or read a book. One of my reading goals for the year 2015 is to read some books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, as well as Clive Cussler and Michael Crichton (two other favorites of his).

I love you, daddy. I miss you everyday.

  

(I took that photo at his 50th birthday party. My husband and I bought him that book and it was so heartwarming to see him light up with eagerness to read it.)

A Fascinating Fairy tale spin off!

Good afternoon, readers! I was at Target about a month ago, and I was browsing through the book aisle (of course) when I noticed a series of books with colorful covers and the title “Whatever After.” I flipped the back of the first book and read a cute and spunky description. It went like this:

“Mirror Mirror on the basement wall… Once upon a time a mirror slurped up me and my brother, and magically transported us inside Snow White’s fairy tale. Then we stopped Snow White from eating the poisoned apple. Hooray! Or not. If Snow White doesn’t die, she won’t meet her prince or get her happy ending. Oops. Now it’s up to us to fix Snow White’s story. And then, fingers crossed, find our way home.”

I rehearsed in my head how I would explain to my husband this particular purchase…

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Abby is the new girl in her fifth grade class. She and her family recently moved and it has been a little rough on Abby. She’s not particularly shy, but being the “new kid” in class always has its downsides. Also, it seems like everyone in this town does everything different! For example, she was taught to slice bananas and add them to a peanut butter sandwich to make the perfect PB Banana, but here they mix up the peanut butter and banana together and then spread the gooey mix onto their bread. Weirdos! Abby finds solace at the library and thinks often about her future (she is going to be a judge one day).
One night, her younger brother, Jonah, wakes her up and tells her that the basement mirror is turning colors and making weird noises. Alarmed, but also curious, she follows him to the basement. One event led to another and they get slurped (literally) into the mirror and spat out in Snow White’s world! However, they do not know that fact when they first get there. They figure it out when they run into the Evil Queen, disguised as an old lady, trying to give Snow White a poisoned apple. They rescue her and she doesn’t eat the apple! Isn’t that how her story goes, though? Once they realize who she is and what they did, they try to help Snow White obtain her happy ending and marry her Prince Charming.
I loved this story! I honestly do plan on reading more in this series (and I’ve mentioned to you all before that I am normally not a series person.) This was such a creative twist to Snow White and I loved how the author used this twist not only to be unique, but also to empower girls/children. Abby is a strong and determined young girl and Jonah is attentive to detail and kind-hearted. I cheered them on and knew they’d find a way to help out Snow White.
If you have young children (girls or boys because honestly, books have no gender and both sexes could enjoy this series), or if you’re a teacher and looking for a good series to read to your students, or even if you’re like me and still like to read all age levels of Young Adult Fiction, pick up this book!
I enjoy reading novels that are spin offs of fairy tales! I like seeing what other authors take out of them and see what they add in on their own accord. Some books that are inspired by fairy tales that I’ve enjoyed are: “Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow” by: Jessica Day George, and “Ella Enchanted” by Gail Carson Levine.
Until next time!

“Sinner” by Maggie Stiefvater

Hello readers!

It is raining all week and I could not be more happy. Well, I could if I were able to enjoy the rain by staying home all week reading and drinking coffee. (How cliché, right?) Anyway, I recently read Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater. If you’ve ever heard of the “Wolves of Mercy Falls” Young Adult series, Sinner is the fourth book and focuses mainly on Isabel Culpeper and Cole St. Clair.

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Setting: Los Angeles, California. Extremely different atmosphere compared to the quiet, mysterious, and languid town of Mercy Falls, Minnesota.

Time: Sinner picks up a few months after everything that happened in Forever. Cole is back in the music scene, sort of, while Isabel is living with her mom, Aunt, and cousin. Cole is continuing his music career by agreeing to make a reality show with a host named Baby North. Isabel’s mom and dad separated and now she is studying for a CNA degree and working at a boutique called Blush.

Throughout the entire novel, there is this underlying tension between Isabel and Cole. Isabel is not sure of Cole’s motives (whether he really wants to be with her or use her as a distraction, as well as if he is serious about staying clean from drugs) and Cole is not sure of who he is after everything that happened in Mercy Falls. He has kept clean except for the mix of chemicals that he discovered can turn him back into a wolf temporarily. Cole uses this as his new “high”. As a wolf, he doesn’t feel anything- no emotions, no regrets, not even good feelings- he is focused solely on wolf needs and it clears his head much better than anything else ever did. Cole is trying so hard to fill the void that developed first while he was lost in drugs and meaningless sex, then later with the death of his best friend Victor.
On the opposite end, Isabel is drowning in the void that developed from the death of her brother, her parent’s separation, and the uncertainty of how things will be in life with Cole coming back into the picture. Isabel keeps all of this hurt inside and uses it as fuel for her sarcasm and (fake) apathy which builds a thicker wall around her against everyone else. She wants to stay isolated from everyone and just dwell in the pain alone. Meanwhile, Cole runs away from his pain.

Stiefvater does an outstanding job with character development in Sinner. In the first three novels of the series, the focus is mainly on Grace and Sam (as far as couples go). Sinner truly captures more of Cole and Isabel and it is refreshing to see that they are just as relatable. Cole is a charismatic person but always has his public mask on. He cannot seem to escape the “Cole St. Clair” that he is known for, in order to start over. Only Isabel can see the real Cole, and that attracts him to her more than anything else. Isabel, however, doesn’t care to keep a public mask on but rather wriggles in the shells of her personality that keep people at a distance. Again, Cole can see the real Isabel but even then it’s glimpses. BOTH know that the other can be that void filler but are unsure if it is the right thing to do by being together. Cole and Isabel feel real and complete when together and it scares them both because they are afraid to lose that feeling. Cole chases after that feeling, Isabel shrinks away from it. Something else they both have in common, and plays a big role in what created a void in each of them, is survivor guilt. Isabel feels alone with her brother dead and Cole feels lost and guilty from the death of Victor.

Likes:

  • The chemistry between them is hot! Unlike Grace and Sam, Isabel and Cole are like magnets- sometimes attracted, sometimes pulled apart, but regardless it is there.
  • Cole and Isabel’s story has more aspects of life that are relatable like drug abuse, divorce, death, anxiety over the future, changing yourself, etc. I liked the heavy fantasy element in Shiver, Linger, and Forever, but I thought the more realistic approach in Sinner added to the difference between the two couples.

Dislikes:

  • I didn’t like how Isabel treated her cousin, Sofia. That may be a dumb dislike, but none-the-less I found it to be exhausting. Sofia was Isabel’s soundboard and she had to deal with the consequences of Isabel’s anger and bitterness. However, Sofia had no backbone hardly at all which made this relationship even more exhausting to read about.
  • Despite the difference between the first three novels and Sinner, as far as fantasy element goes, I still am drawn more to Grace and Sam rather than Isabel and Cole. For this novel, reality suited it more though so I’m not complaining.
  •  Cole and Isabel are complicated. Again, their relationship suited the novel really well, but they were such an emotional roller coaster to read about. It made me appreciate the ease of Sam and Grace!

I’d give this novel 4 out of 5 stars!

I’ll be writing again soon. 🙂

“Strange Angels” by Lili St. Crow

Hello again!

I recently finished Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow. I received this novel from my good friend Tanner as a Christmas gift… I think two years ago. I’m reeeaaallllllyy bad about receiving books as gifts but not reading them until much later… Honestly though, it feels like when I finish a book there are five books added to my “To-Read” list. I’m sure someone can relate to this!

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Strange Angels is a fantasy YA book. I thought it was a fun read but I also didn’t really think there was anything about it that stood out from the other vampire/werewolf/paranormal YA novels or series. Maybe that’s okay to some people! I tend to get exhausted of a certain genre after I’ve read books that seem like they are repeating each other’s plots and settings, but if you are the type of reader who generally wants to read anything that has those fantasy elements, this is a must read.

Dru Anderson is a teenage girl who is constantly on the move with her ex-Marine father. He is a demon hunter of creatures of the Real World, and Dru is training to become one. (I thought it was interesting how St. Crow made the world of fantasy creatures the “real” world.) Dru is sarcastic and witty, and so is St. Crow’s writing. Her writing makes Dru seem like a relatable character and that was a factor that made reading this book easy. Early on in the novel, Dru’s father goes out to hunt a creature he’s been after but doesn’t come back the same… He was turned into a zombie, and when he came back to the house he and Dru were temporarily living in, Dru had no choice but to eliminate what was left of her dad. On top of the fact that she is now alone, she struggles with what her grandmother called “the touch”, which helped her dad find these Real World creatures. Dru is unaware of the great power within her that will later blossom in the series, but for now it is a gift that she does not feel blessed to possess.

Enter Graves, the guy who is goofy, kind, slightly puppy-love sick, and basically Dru’s sidekick. He notices one day when Dru skipped class, and the next time she showed up and left, he followed her out of the classroom. (Stalker, much? Is he related to Edward Cullen? Just kidding. I still love the Twilight series.) At first Dru finds him annoying for trying to wiggle his way into her life by following her around, but after a couple of chapters that reveal him helping Dru any time she needed help, and genuinely being a nice human being, he grows on you. In a freak attack at the mall Dru and Graves have been bunkering in- the first of many attacks that leave them rattled- Graves is thrown into Dru’s reality when he is bitten and changed into a loup-garou (half werewolf). Throughout the novel, Dru and Graves fight off Real World creatures that are all coming after Dru, but she doesn’t know why and can barely keep Graves together to take it all in.

We later meet Christophe, who is a djamphir (half vampire) who is also, apparently, Dru’s “guardian angel.” Christophe rocks Dru’s world by revealing to her that her mother was a very powerful she-vampire and that she too will become one very soon. Sergej, a vampire that has been after her mother and later whom her father was trying to hunt all of these years, is behind all of the attacks that have been happening. Can Dru hold on for the bumpy ride that leads to her destiny? Is she willing to even accept her destiny, or the change and responsibility it will bring?

I’ve read from other reviews that this first novel takes a lot of time developing the three main characters, and that other books in the series have more action. St. Crow does a good job of character development without dragging details out. Although there isn’t a lot of action, the scenes that do have action also hold a lot of information and foreshadowing for what will happen later on. I probably won’t pick up the rest of the novels in this series only because I’m a little burnt out on vampires and werewolves for now, but if you aren’t, then definitely finish the series and let me know how it is! If you like Vampire Academy by: Richelle Mead, The Mortal Instruments series by: Cassandra Clare, or anything to do with vampires, werewolves, and/or paranormal, you should check this book out purely out of love for those elements.