Stalking Jack the Ripper had me hooked by the first sentence. Set in Victorian Era London, the novel centers around the crimes of Jack the Ripper, a famous real-life serial killer who (in the real world) has yet to be identified. The main character, Audrey Rose Wadsworth lives a life of privilege and frills, but much prefers heading to her uncle’s to perform autopsies. Suddenly, slain women from across London start showing up on Audrey’s autopsy table, getting her wrapped up in one of the most well-known serial murders in history. The spooky setting of the novel and the true-crime aspect kept me on my toes throughout. I was regularly surprised by all the twists and turns that Kerri Maniscalco weaved into her debut novel. Stalking Jack the Ripper was a rollercoaster ride of murder, romance, and history and I loved every second of it.
Six of Crows, set in the bustling town of Ketterdam, follows six individuals, each incredibly different yet all cohesive. The group is formed when Kaz, a gang leader, enlists each person for their respective skills (stealth, strength, sabotage, etc). While all are working toward a common goal of completing one of the hardest heists known to man, many arguments are ignited and the prospect of pulling off the feat seems poised to dwindle fast. As mentioned before, this novel follows six individuals, and rather than being solely narrated by the leader of the group, Kaz, each member of the crew gets to narrate throughout the novel. I tend to find this hard to read because I get lost amongst the different perspectives and timelines offered up in quick succession. However, this was not the case with Six of Crows. Leigh Bardugo managed to make each character’s perspective unique and personal, yet cohesive and supplementary to the other views and the novel as a whole. Six of Crows is a great novel filled with nail-biting tension and teamwork that just might beat the odds.
Set in Regency Era England, Sense and Sensibility transports the reader back in time while simultaneously bringing up prevalent issues of today. At the beginning of the novel, Elinor (sense) and Marianne (sensibility) are introduced. Elinor is emotionless and practical while Marianne is empathetic and passionate. Both regularly butt heads due to their differing dispositions, but Elinor and Marianne learn to band together when hardship comes along. Despite being a novel from around 200 years ago, Sense and Sensibility introduces a problem present today, judging based on differences. Preceding the hardship, Marianne and Elinor frequently find themselves disliking the actions and attitudes of the other. Afterward, both of the sisters learn to love one another for who they are and even adopt some characteristics of the opposite person. Sense and Sensibility teaches readers to love and accept the differences in others while coming to terms with the uniqueness of oneself. I love this novel and the accepting message it relays to the audience.
Northanger Abbey veers off from the other Jane Austen novels due to its spooky and gothic ambiance. The protagonist of the story, Catherine Morland, travels to Bath, England where she meets Henry Tilney and is subsequently invited to his estate, Northanger Abbey. Due to her love of mystery/horror novels, Catherine’s curious brain soon becomes suspicious of all that goes on in Northanger Abbey. Catherine’s curiosity may be her downfall, or it may lead her to conclusions that just might blow her mind. I love this novel. It expertly meets the sweet, romantic nature of many Jane Austen novels with a mysterious, gothic aura. Readers are brought along with Catherine as she searches through wooden chests, sneaks into private rooms, and mulls over her feelings for Henry Tilney. The incredibleness of Northanger Abbey continues into the last line, which just so happens to be my favorite concluding sentence of any novel I have read.
This YA novel had romance, intrigue and suspense. It was a charming book about a young teenage mom finding what her passions are outside of school and home. What will Emoni do once she graduates from high school? Is there time for romance too? The story had just enough romance and real life stories to make it seem relatable. For those single moms, regardless of age, this is a totally relatable story of trying to find your way in the world outside the title of MOM and where to go from there. While the story seemed to pick up pace in the end, it left me with questions on how some of the story lines ended. Kind of left it open to interpretation and left me waiting it to last longer.
Jane Eyre is a classic for a reason. With its beautiful prose and girl-power undertones, Jane Eyre never ceases to be relevant and entertaining. The woman who gives the book its namesake, Jane Eyre, is an orphan who grows up unloved by her wealthy adoptee family. Jane is sent off to an all-girls school by her family where her love for learning and first true friendships ignite. After school, Jane gets a job as a governess at the mysterious and cold estate of Mr. Rochester. Jane finds love while working there, but one little secret may turn everything upside down. Throughout the many hardships Jane faces in her life, she never ceases to use her wit, intelligence, and strength to keep moving; she finds her independence and learns that she can make it on her own. Jane Eyre is an inspiration for all with her ability to speak out against those with more power than her and become independent in an era when women regularly could not. This book is an incredible one, with twists, turns, darkness, and mysteries not found in many female novels of the time. I love this book and would recommend it to anyone looking for an entertaining read with spooky and girl-power undertones.
Deborah Harkness somehow encapsulates three main interests of mine (England, history, and fantastical creatures) into the perfect little box that is “A Discovery of Witches.” Diana Bishop, a professor at Oxford University, spends much of her time in the historical halls of Bodleian Library. Many of her days consist of research, rowing, and rejecting any connections to her witchy identity and lineage. Diana’s self-identity, and the world, flip on their head when an ancient tome and Matthew Clairmont, a vampire geneticist, fall into Diana’s path. Though I generally lean away from novels set in the present day, Harkness sprinkles the book with enough history (and a lot of magic) to keep a history and fantasy buff like me, enjoying the ride. I adored this novel and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for an escape into a dark academia and wit-filled world.
Tired of all the online shaming and name calling? The Shame Machine by Cathy O’ Neil peers into the business of as well as the sociological aspects of public shaming, primarily through mass media and social media. The book takes a scientific, unapologetic, and non-partisan stance, and also includes some of the author’s own struggles with being shamed as well as not giving into feeding into the systems of shame.
A story emanating from the head of Stephen Dedalus, an Irish boy who struggles to find his place in Ireland. Readers accompany Stephen on a journey of self-realization in a world where the image of the “ideal man” is constantly pushed upon him. I greatly enjoyed seeing Stephen grow into himself following the many hardships of his life. The novel demonstrates that advancement and change are parts of life and, rather than run from them, one should run towards them. While I enjoyed learning about personal growth through Stephen’s story, I did not enjoy the writing style. I find stream of consciousness narration to be confusing and untrustworthy as it comes from a singular point of view. I would recommend this novel to anyone looking for a story of rebellion and self-realization, but I would not pick it up if stream of consciousness narration is not your style.
The Book Thief is a classic that I will never get tired of reading. Narrated by Death itself, the novel takes an eye-opening point-of-view of WWII not previously delved into. Death follows many in the novel, including the main character Liesel, a lover of books and all things language who develops sticky fingers following her brother’s death. From small actions such as book thievery, to ones much more courageous and dangerous, Liesel and her foster family rebel against the oppressive Nazi regime. This is a heart-wrenching novel that never fails to make me cry, though I know the ending like the back of my hand. The beautiful writing and incredible story of The Book Thief make it an emotional and inspiring ride.