The best of mystery: Ruth Ware

Greetings, Bookworms!

As an adult, my taste in genres has broadened, and I find myself reaching for mystery novels more and more. Lately, my wish list and Goodreads account have consisted of Agatha Christie, the queen of murder and mystery. I also gravitate toward female novelists who are making strides in the genre and write about strong, female protagonists, like Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, Kate Morton, and one of my favorites, Ruth Ware. All of these women have kept me up at night and I couldn’t be any more thankful!

I consumed Ruth Ware’s latest novel, The Death of Mrs. Westaway, in less than four days. I closed it wanting more and yearning to revisit her books. When it comes to Ruth Ware’s books, I follow the same ritual: I’d get the novel, open the book, and be entranced finishing them in days rather than weeks, loving every minute of the story.

Because I wanted to revisit her novels, I thought it would be fun to rank her novels and give a few reasons why I love them (without giving away too many spoilers). I have never done anything like this before! Excited!

OK, here goes:

 

westaway

 

Left to fend for herself after her mother passes away, twenty-one-year-old Hal Westaway receives a mysterious letter detailing her grandmother’s death and that she is receiving a substantial inheritance. But there’s a mistake: Hester Westaway is not Hal’s grandmother. Broke and desperate, Hal decides to visit the house anyway and deceive the family and claim the money. Hal then journeys to the house, a sprawling, beautiful English estate, and soon discovers that there is something very wrong about the family…and the inheritance.

What I love about this book:

  • The TAROT: After her mother dies, Hal takes over her tarot reading kiosk on the pier. Weaving tarot into the story creates such a magical and spellbinding element, making it even more mysterious and intriguing.
  • The setting: Trepassen House is old and filled with secrets. The sprawling fields, overgrown maze, rickety boathouse, and creepy, unkept qualities add so much to the story. I found myself wishing Hal explored it more—especially the maze!
  • The sisterhood: There are many moments of sisterhood in this novel. From the love between a mother and daughter to the love between two best friends, this novel is about the importance of love and sacrifice. You’ll see!

 

lying game

When remains of a body are found on a beach in a coastal village, Isla receives a group text message from her high school best friend that she needs help. When her two other friends respond “I’m coming,” she finds herself on a train to help Kate. Once inseparable, the four friends—Kate, Fatima, Thea, and Isla, discover that their well-kept secret isn’t as concealed as they thought. The four close friends must take out a page of their old book, and the Lying Game makes a comeback.

What I love about this book:

  • The nostalgia: Although I do not know the characters, what I love about this book is how relatable the nostalgia can be. Have you ever seen a friend from high school or early college years and relived those memories with them, looking back at the old times? That’s what this book is like—although, their past is a little darker than mine.
  • The unreliable narrator. The unreliable everyone: I used to hate the unreliable narrator…until this book. I loved not knowing what was true and even the uncertainty of the truth. You realize, as the reader, that you are part of the Lying Game. Even when you close the book, you still don’t fully know the truth.
  • The outcome: Oh, you just don’t see it coming. The ending of this book is tremendous, filled with action and lots of heartbreak.

 

dark dark wood

Ware’s debut novel, In a Dark, Dark Wood, follows the story of Lenora, a reclusive writer who finds herself attending her old best friend’s weekend getaway in a creepy glass house. When Nora wakes up in a hospital bed and learns that she might be responsible for a murder, she tries to put the pieces together, revisiting her dark past and trying to find out the truth.

What I love about this book:

  • Again, that idea of the unreliable narrator: Nora, whose memory is altered after the incident, does not know what is real. As she lies in the hospital and eventually revisits the glass house, Nora puts the pieces together and discovers the truth.
  • The Agatha Christie-esque collection of characters. It reminded me a lot of And Then There Were None or Murder on the Orient Express. All of the characters had their own suspicious qualities about them, and you find yourself unable to trust any of them.
  • The planchette: The characters, drunk and wanting to have fun, use a planchette to “break the ice” among the group, and while it’s all fun and games, some characters find what the planchette writes out is a little too close to the truth. So creepy!

 

cabin 10

In The Woman in Cabin 10, Lo, a writer for a travel magazine, boards a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. One night, Lo wakes up to a loud noise and splash. When she looks outside, she notices blood smeared on the glass of cabin 10’s veranda. There was a murder on the boat, and no one believes her. It becomes her mission, then, to discover who is missing from the boat, and boy, does she get in trouble.

What I love about this book:

  • From the minute you open the book, you’re on edge: A life-changing, dangerous incident happens in Lo’s life that sets the tone for the rest of the novel. The thrill is there right from the start!
  • The most suspenseful and unnerving action happens in this novel: Lo certainly goes through a lot to solve this puzzle. Ware definitely tried something new with what happens to Lo—and she succeeds in that hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck-standing-up thing.
  • The odd sense of sisterhood: Lo finds herself making a strong connection with the most unlikely of characters, and you end the novel feeling a little sympathetic towards that character and happy with the outcome.

 

This was fun!

Readers: Have you read any of Ruth Ware’s books? How would you rank them?

And Readers: If you haven’t read any of Ware’s novels, what are you waiting for?

 

 

 

 

 

8 Ways to Experience Hygge this fall

I discovered the magic of “hygge” a year ago when I stumbled across the book, The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living” by Meik Wiking. I remembered reading how the Dutch are the happiest people in the world, and I always wondered how. The answer: “hygge” (pronounced hoo-gah), a Danish word acknowledging a feeling or moment that gives you complete happiness. One can experience hygge alone or with friends; the only condition to experiencing hygge is that you are able to enjoy and recognize living in the present.

Some buzzwords that surround hygge are “cozy,” “comfort,” and “charm.” These are three elements that I take pride in when choosing my hygge. Wiking writes: “Hygge is the sensation you get when you’re cuddled up on a sofa, in cozy socks under a soft throw, during a storm. It’s that feeling when you’re sharing comfort food and easy conversation with loved ones at a candlelit table. It is the warmth of morning light shining just right on a crisp blue-sky day.” To “do” hygge is to you create simple rituals without much effort; you make your personal life an art form.

Fall has arrived—the perfect season to try out some hygge practices. Hygge is not just restricted to the colder months, but for someone like me who loves bundling up in blankets with a cup of hot chocolate, this is when I experience the most hygge. Here are some fall activities for you to try to bring some hygge into your life:

Light some fall-scented candles
Candles are already so calming and peaceful, so why not light a Pumpkin Spiced Chai Latte candle and get the full fall effect?

Read a book
As an avid reader, sitting in my comfy chair with a steaming mug of tea or coffee and a great book is ultimate hygge. Since it’s Halloween season, try picking up a horror/spooky book to get you into the Halloween spirit!

Layer up!
Three of the best things about fall: sweaters, scarves, and boots. I love bundling up with scarves and jackets and dressing for the cool weather. Did I mention flannels?!

Buy some fall decorations—or make your own!
When the first leaf hits the ground in September, I make a mad dash to the nearest craft store and load up on fall decor. I love crafting; it’s such a fun way to unwind, relax, and spark some creativity! Here’s an example of one of my fall decor pieces this year. I went to my local craft store and bought these pumpkins and leaves, and created my own chalkboard sign:

img_6647-2.jpg

 

Road Trip!
Get in your car with a friend or two and take a drive to a cool town or place and explore. Go to a trendy coffee shop or a museum; or go to a park and take in the views! Everything is beautiful this time of year—get out there and enjoy it!

Have a movie night
Invite a friend over and have a movie night or watch a movie on your own. This time of year, I love to sit on my couch after a long day with a warm blanket and watch Halloween movies—especially classics like “Halloweentown” and “Hocus Pocus!”

Go on a walk/hike through the autumn leaves
Head outside and enjoy the sweet, crisp autumn air. Going for walks gives me the chance to slow down and enjoy the beautiful foliage—and I love hearing the *crunch* of fallen leaves under my feet!

Pick your own apples/pumpkins—and get to baking!
Make your way to a local pick-your-own farm and grab a hot apple cider, some warm fritters, and pick your own pumpkins or apples. Then…make a dessert when you get home! A fall dessert favorite in our home is warm apple crisp with vanilla ice cream on top. Yum!

 

What do you like to do in the fall? How do you “hygge?”

 

 

 

5 Challenged Books to Bring Banned Books Week to a Close

Banned Books week is coming to a close, but I hope you had time to take a look at lists on your own and celebrate the freedom to read and the freedom of expression. Throughout the week, I have shared just some of the many books that have been challenged or banned throughout the country and thanked those who work tirelessly to ensure that we are able to read and express ourselves freely.

To close our Banned Books Week, I’d like to share just 5 of the commonly challenged books:

  1. “Animal Farm” by George Orwell
  2. “The Diary of a Girl” by Anne Frank
  3. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  4. “A Farewell to Arms” by Ernest Hemingway
  5. The Holy Bible

 

Feel free to express your views in the comments. Again, I hope that you took the time to research other commonly challenged books as we wrap up Banned Books Week. Thanks for reading!

10 Commonly Challenged Books to Commemorate Banned Books Week

It’s Banned Books Week. From September 24-30, bibliophiles, teachers, librarians, publishers, journalists, and all readers will celebrate the freedom to read and the freedom of expression (for all; even to those who challenge these books), and ultimately shed light on the harms of censorship. On Sunday, I shared 20 books that have been challenged or banned from libraries and schools. “Challenged” means that there has been an effort to remove or restrict these books from readers. I wanted to continue sharing challenged book titles throughout Banned Books Week to shed light on censorship and thank those who work hard to ensure that these books stay in schools, libraries, and on the shelves to help shape the minds of our youth and beyond.

Here are 10 commonly challenged books (in no particular order):

  1. “A Light in the Attic” by Shel Silverstein
  2. “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger, 1951
  3. “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeline L’Engle
  4. “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood
  5.  “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker
  6. “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley
  7. “Native Son” by Richard Wright
  8.  “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Ken Kesey
  9. “Where’s Waldo?” by Martin Handford
  10. “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien

 

Which titles jump out at you? What are your thoughts on censorship? Share in the comments!