Little Pretty Things

In Lori Rader-Day’s Little Pretty Things, we explore the high school friendship of Juliet and Maddy. While they were the closest friends in high school, Maddy came in first in every track race they ever ran together, until suddenly they stopped running and stopped being friends. 10 years have past since they’ve seen each other and we meet Juliet in a dumpy motel on the outskirts of their hometown. She dropped out of college when her father died and she seemed to have lost all her drive and ended up in this dead end job. When in walks Maddy, beautiful, wealthy, and makes Juliet question all of her life’s choices up to this point. She sees in Maddy what she could have had, and once again she’s in second place to Maddy.

Or is she? Maddy is found murdered at the motel and Juliet is intent of finding who killed her former best friend. Juliet ends up tangled in a web of deceit that makes her realize that coming in 2nd place might be the better spot to have ended up. The entire town’s facade is ripped off as Juliet and Courtney, an investigating officer and classmate of Juliet and Maddy’s, uncover abuse that the town has been living with for decades.

A compelling read and a cautionary tale for teenage girls looking to find their way in this world on their own.

Read July 2017

 

The Winter Foundlings

Holy hell, The Winter Foundlings is an addictive read. Kate Rhodes takes a horrible story of a child murderer and somehow makes it worse. In The Winter Foundlings, we follow Alice Quentin, a psychologist who transfers to the high-secutrity prison to study the treatment methods for the worst criminals, outside of London. While there, Alice is hoping to meet and study the treatment for Louis Kinsella, a child killer with no remorse, when back in London a child is found murdered in a way that matches Kinsella’s murders.

Quentin must remain impartial and clearheaded as she’s pulled into Kinsella’s world and manipulated by her own mentor and premier crime psychologist.

Rhodes tells the story of Quentin’s investigation interspersed with an abducted child who’s fighting for her life in whatever way she can. The details of the murders are horrific and hard to read, but Quentin’s devotion to them and finding their killer is hypnotizing.

There’s a similarity between this novel and Silence of the Lambs, not that I’ve read that recently, but the feel is the same with a male psychotic killer manipulating a woman investigating a current crime. There’s more of a copycat killer in this novel than in the other. But it doesn’t matter. This story feels so original and is so gripping, I can overlook the similarity.

Read July 2017

Vinegar Girl

I only picked Vinegar Girl from the library since it was on the “Lucky Day Shelf”, which usually means its a popular book that you can pick up today and not have to wait for it on hold…get it…its your “Lucky Day”. Most books that I’ve gotten from this section have been well written or really popular. Its not always my style, but I can usually see why its popular. Not so with Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl.

I read the cover which described the character Kate Battista as almost spinster-like and caretaker of her father, her sister, and their home. She organized lunches, does all the laundry, cleaning, etc, all the while totally unappreciated by anyone that she does anything for. I thought dear old Kate would have some sort of awakening moment and it might make an interesting, easy read. I read the novel and waited for her epiphany that she’s being used and she needs to create her own life. When her father proposed that she marry his research assistant to extend his visa, she rightfully freaks out. This was finally the point that she’d break through and become her own person and stop being a doormat!! Except, that didn’t happen. While the assistant is foreign and quirky, he’s also kind of a jerk. And yet Kate goes through with this horrific marriage to escape her father and sister. Oh, and at the wedding she defends her new-husband who beat up a teenager by saying “It’s hard being a man.” WTF?

And incase you think this was written in the 1850’s when marriage was the only way for a woman to escape her parents, it wasn’t. This is a modern horrifying novel. The only pretense at modernism is the Epilogue that has, without any actual character development, Kate receiving a Botany award when her kid is still young. This woman has done nothing in the Botany-world other than having a hobby as a backyard gardener. This was absolutely preposterous and its like the editors realized how sexist and horrible this novel is and wanted to give it a feminist finish.

Anyway, this was horrible. Don’t read it. Don’t let your friends read it. Burn it if you see an impressionable young girl reading this who’s trying to look to the world around them for what might be acceptable treatment that they should expect in a relationship, with a parent, sibling, or boyfriend.

Read June 2017

UPDATE: Since reading the book and writing this blog, I’ve learned that this novel is based Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, a play I’ve never read, but from a quick search has some controversy as either being witty satire or a horribly misogynistic play. I’m not sure what Tyler was hoping to achieve with Vinegar Girl, but I did not see much wit, but an awful lot of misogyny.

 

The Orchardist

The Orchardist is an amazing story about William Talmadge, a quiet man living an isolated life in a Washington orchard until one day 2 pregnant girls start stealing food from him. Its very clear that these girls are terrified but need someone’s help and Talmadge can’t turn them out. He slowly cares for them and gets them help with their pregnancies. The girls never warm to him, but when Talmadge learns of their past, he understands their reluctance and accepts what they are able to offer. Their life is turned upside down when someone from their past comes to collect them. Decisions are made that affect the rest of their lives. We’re able to follow most of the characters throughout their entire lives and see how these decisions impacted their futures.

The setting adds an interesting element to the story. The isolation allows a self awareness to the characters and a coldness to their interactions. But the love between many of them is felt on a level that most families cannot experience. A simple hand on the passing shoulder screams volumes that are never spoken. The style reminds me of much older novels and this work has been compared to works by Steinbeck and I understand why.

This tragic story is filled with the love and care true families have for one another. Regardless of proximity or blood.

Great novel! It’ll be interesting to read additional works by Coplin to see if she can continue in this style. She based this novel on an area that she grew up with and types of people she knew. I’d love to see her do it again.

Read June 2017

The Carrier

Sophie Hannah’s The Carrier tells the story of a man who confesses to a murder that none of the investigating officers think he committed. The murder undoubtably took place in the comatosed victims bedroom, and all the evidence backs up the confession. But why would the victim’s husband, a man who had left his wife until she went into the coma, confess to a murder that would send him to jail. The husband’s mistress-of-sorts from years ago gets mixed up when she meets the victims caretaker.

The novel is very detailed about all the different relationships the victim had and how the husband could have so many legitimate reasons to kill her, but yet nothing makes sense.

This wasn’t a quick read for me. I think the detail is very dense and required time in between readings to think about the plot. I can’t tell if this was a good thing or not. Overall, the book was enjoyable to read.

Read June 2017

broken verses

In broken verses, there are two essential relationships. Pakistani’s greatest poet and his muse, as well as the muse’s relationship with her daughter. The story is told from the daughter’s perspective, years after the poet was murdered by government thugs and her mother went missing. Aasmani has never recovered from her mother’s desertions after the poet’s death, nor the many, many times she left her when he poet was exiled.

Through letters written in the poet’s secret code, Aasmani tries to unravel the mystery behind the poet’s death and her mother’s desertion. Having believed that the only ones who knew the code were dead, Aasmani doesn’t know what to make of the letters until she starts to believe one or the other didn’t die. Her current romance and her relationship with her family become strained as Aasmani investigates the source of the letters and confusion builds as more letters are received.

Beautifully, poetically written.

Read June 2017