Genre: Mystery

Falling in Love with Books: The Sherwood Ring

Falling in Love with Books: The Sherwood RingThe Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope, Evaline Ness
Published by Houghton Mifflin on January 1st 1970
Genres: Adult, Historical, Mystery
Pages: 272
Goodreads

Newly orphaned Peggy Grahame is caught off-guard when she first arrives at her family's ancestral estate. Her eccentric uncle Enos drives away her only new acquaintance, Pat, a handsome British scholar, then leaves Peggy to fend for herself. But she is not alone. The house is full of mysteries and ghosts. Soon Peggy becomes involved with the spirits of her own Colonial ancestors and witnesses the unfolding of a centuries-old romance against a backdrop of spies and intrigue and of battles plotted and foiled.

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Welcome to Lory, one of my favorite bloggers, who blogs at The Emerald City Book Review! You may remember that she participated in Falling in Love with Books last year, and I’m so happy she’s back with another book she loves and wants us all to fall in love with as well! Enjoy!

Are you allergic to historical fiction?

Maybe the mere mention of the American Revolution brings on yawns induced by your school days, and you can’t see how any book that includes George Washington as a character could possibly be interesting. Or perhaps you just prefer romance, or fantasy, or mystery, and find enough to satisfy you in those genres without having to dig into the dusty past.

Well, in that case I hope you’ll consider trying a romance/fantasy/mystery that also happens to be partly set during the American Revolution, because if you do I’m quite sure you’ll find it a charming and delightful experience that might even change your mind about George Washington. The Sherwood Ring opens with a young woman of the present day (more or less – the book was first published in 1958) coming to an old house in upstate New York after the death of her father has left her an orphan. While her eccentric uncle tries to defend the estate against the scholarly advances of an attractive neighboring Englishman, Peggy tries to unravel the mysteries of some of her ghostly ancestors, who relieve her loneliness by sharing their stories.

There are no supernatural horrors here, as all the ghosts are benign, but there is suspense and human drama and, yes, a certain amount of history.

Although really it just serves as an atmospheric backdrop for some marvelous characters, most notably a romantic couple that will steal your heart: the dashing British rogue who’s causing trouble for the American rebels, and the clever young lady who is more than a match for him. There are two other couples to be paired up in the course of the novel, but this is the one that makes it memorable.

So please, do try The Sherwood Ring, and see how much fun historical fiction can be. And I hope you’ll move on to Pope’s other book, The Perilous Gard, a Tudor-era historical novel which is even better. You might even find you’ve fallen in love with a new genre, and that would be a wonderful thing.

I don’t know about your, but I had never heard of The Sherwood Ring before Lory mentioned it. I’m definitely going to check this title out as I am an avid reader of historical fiction. Thank you, Lory, for sharing this book with us, and I sincerely hope we have some readers who begin to fall in love with historical fiction after encountering The Sherwood Ring!

What Katie Read

“The sight of strangers safe at home…”: (Review) The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

“The sight of strangers safe at home…”: (Review) The Girl on the Train by Paula HawkinsThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Published by Penguin Group US on February 11th 2015
Genres: Adult, Mystery
Pages: 378
four-stars

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? Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.

Spiritual Illuminations: [How this book made me think about spirituality.]

Three perspectives were featured in this story, and that made it extremely interesting. I’m drawn to books with multiple narrators (and if they are unreliable, even better!) because I appreciate getting more than one side to the story.

Here we have a mystery—Megan (second voice) has vanished and is nowhere to be found. Rachel (first voice), a thirty something recently divorced woman, has watched her on the train every day as she passes the back garden of Megan’s home. When she witnesses something that she thinks may be a clue as to Megan’s whereabouts, she gets involved in the investigation. And that complicates things a bit.

The third voice, Anna, is married to Rachel’s ex-husband, and they also become involved in the investigation, due to living on the same street as Megan and her husband. Needless to say, switching between each of these perspectives made the story race along for me. I couldn’t stop listening. (After all, I was “reading” the audiobook version of this during a cross country trip.) All three of these narrators seem unreliable in some way. Who can I believe? What really happened? What was only imagined? These kinds of questions popped up during the reading event, and kept me on my toes, so to speak, desperately trying to piece together what happened. Paying close attention to detail with this story is a must, if you want to have a chance at figuring this one out.

If this story had not been told through three perspectives, and through just one, for example, it wouldn’t have been as rich. Getting a story through three voices accomplishes something important—it communicates to the reader that there is more than one side to a story, and your side is going to inevitably affect the way you respond to others in the same situation. Whether you related to Rachel, Megan, or Anna, hearing all three of the voices at one point or another in the story gives readers a chance to develop empathy for more than one character.

This is the way it is in life, as well, and I appreciate getting this reminder. Sure, there are many books that do this—that employ the multiple voices in the story, but when it’s well-done (and from my perspective, it’s pretty good), I think it adds rich nuances and complexity to a narrative.

What I Liked About This Audiobook:

I really liked the first two voices on the audiobook but the voice of Anna was a bit annoying! Then again, I think the actress probably was playing her part well because I think Anna is meant to be annoying. I didn’t really like Anna for the entire book, until the end. At that point I saw a little more that I liked in her character. Hawkins, in my opinion, brought the three voices together in a clever way, and I would definitely listen to the audio version of the book again.

The setting! I so appreciated the way Hawkins builds London as the setting in the book. Having lived in London twice, and having been a regular train rider on London trains, I absolutely loved her realistic depiction of that travel. Whether it was mentioning specific parts of Central or Greater London in the story, or referring to details about what it’s like to be stopped on the train during a red signal, I liked this book even more because of the way I could relate to the movements of a Londoner. Even if you haven’t lived in London, though, I think you would appreciate those details.

If you’re an audiobook listener, I would recommend checking this title out!

Not all of my blogger friends liked this one, but I do think it’s a story that you either really enjoy or you just don’t get into. And that’s ok, but I still suggest, give this one a chance!

Quotes of Illumination:

“The holes in your life are permanent. You have to grow around them, like tree roots around concrete; you mould yourself through the gaps.”

“I am no longer just a girl on the train, going back and forth without point or purpose.”

“On the train, the tears come, and I don’t care if people are watching me; for all they know, my dog might have been run over.”

The Final Illumination:

The Girl on the Train featured flawed people dealing with the various joys and trials that life brings—and some people had lives that more difficult than others. However, as different as one character was from the other, you got the sense that there is always something that can connect us. Even though our lives might be vastly different, we can connect—though we have to be intentional about it.

Rachel, Megan, and Anna all lived terribly different lives, and they each had struggles and joys that were vastly different. But, I wonder how their stories would have turned out differently if they would have recognized the ways they were similar.

Finally, something I could completely relate to in the book: the way Rachel looked at strangers’ homes the train rolled past during her commute. She liked to imagine what kind of lives they lived, and who they were. This is something that I think a lot of Londoners do—and I think it’s brilliant to imagine what kind of lives these other people are living. I never get tired of that dimension of being in London!

Did you read The Girl on the Train? What did you think about how the story ended? Be careful of spoilers for people that haven’t read. You can always tweet me though!

four-stars
What Katie Read
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