Curtis Sittenfeld’s novel Sisterland explores what happens when 2 people, who are closer than anyone at birth, grow apart and then towards each other again. How can we love someone who represents everything that we hated about ourself and our past? Twins, Daisy and Violet Shramm, were born into a dysfunctional family where their mom holed up everyday until making an entrance at dinnertime, where dinner miraculously appeared through no effort of her own. And a father who didn’t discuss life with his family and never wondered who prepared every dinner that he enjoyed, but battled on loving them for who they are. A life and family that Daisy wanted to leave behind when she went to college, even leaving her carefree name Daisy behind for her solid and trustworthy middle name Kate.

Kate tries to hide from her past, but living in a small city with a twin sister who flamboyantly, psychically goes on air to announce an impending catastrophic earthquake in the St Louis area means that she must confront the things she likes least about herself. The choices she’s made earned her a stable life, but blood is thicker than water and Kate gets wrapped up in the drama Violet unleashes.

Sittenfeld uses the sisters’s decisions and deceptions to drive the plot forcing them to rekindle a closeness that they haven’t felt in years. But this book is more than the bonds of sisters. Its about hiding who we are and life or fate keeps trying to let the truth free. How can we be in an honest relationship if we’re not honest with ourself. The story unfolded seamlessly and I was caught on every work.

Read March 2014.

Sharp Objects

Sharp Objects is Gillian Flynn’s first novel, but the third I read. In Dark Places, Flynn deals with a family torn apart by murder. In Sharp Objects, its murder that brings Camille Preaker back to her small Missouri town. Her tiny Chicago paper sends her to her hometown to investigate the disappearance and death of two young girls. Camille Preaker uses alcohol to get herself ready to face the family she has not seem in years, but will it be enough? Camille, recently discarded from a psych ward for the cutting she does to herself, immerses herself in the crime investigation while dealing with her mother, a hypochondriac and the town heiress of sorts, and her dual-personalitied, much younger sister.

The town of Wind Gap is terrified that someone is after their children and suspect an out of towner, but Camille’s gut tells her this small town keeps its secrets and murderers close. This is an intense novel with all the main characters having very deep psychological conditions worthy of commitment.

Flynn shows the relationship between the residents of Wind Gap and how the rich function in a different world that the workers of her family’s pig processing plant. I loved the detail that the local bars always served chicken, not pork and after the description of the pig processing plant, I can understand why.

If I had read this novel first, I might feel different about Flynn’s debut novel, but I did not think this demonstrated the same level of authorship as her other novels. The characterization was great, but the story felt a little transparent or forced near the end, unlike how I felt about the other novels. But Gillian Flynn has only written 3 novels and I’ve loved every single one, so even with that, I think she’s a phenomenal crime/horror writer.

Read March 2014

A Death in Tuscany

Michele Giuttari is a former head of the Florence police force before turning to crime writing. I’ve read another of his books and remembering being entranced, not for the writing, but for the scenes of Italian life. A Death in Tuscany felt very similar with wonderful scenes of Italian living mixed with murder.

A young girl is found abandoned and practically dead on the side of a road and Chief Superintendent Michele Ferrara cannot let this murder go unsolved, either due to her age or because she’s treated like a piece of trash due to her possible immigrant status. In the course of the investigation, the young girls murder seems to be the least of the crimes committed against her very young body.

In addition to solving this crime, Ferrara’s oldest friend goes missing and he’s being shut out of the formal investigation due to his closeness and the possibility of Massimo Verga being a murderer on the run. Both investigations take Ferrara around Tuscany and into secret societies. Drugs, pedophilia, and murder are at the center of the investigation and it takes everything they have to save those who still need to be saved.

This was a quick, enjoyable read. In reading the book jacket I noticed that Michele Giuttari was involved with the Monster of Florence case. From Amanda Knox’s Waiting to be Heard, I remember the prosecutor in her trial being involved with the Monster of Florence case. Turns out, Michele Giuttari is in some legal trouble due to his involvement in the Monster of Florence case and may need to serve some jail time. It’ll be interesting to see if he continues as a crime novelist after any stints in prison.

Read March 2014

take a chance on me

take a chance on me is a cute story about an English girl living in her childhood village and having a great time with her new boyfriend. Her high-school nemesis moves back home after his father died and Cleo Quinn and Johnny LaVenture can’t seem to escape each other in such a small town especially after the wonderful boyfriend reveals his true colors. Cleo’s life may be difficult but its nothing compared to her sister Abbie and her husband Tom. Their world is torn apart by a secret from the past.

Jill Mansell really paints a beautiful picture of small town life and whats it like when you cannot escape the rumors and spies around every corner. Mansell also twisted two separate stories of the sisters into one narrative which made it more interesting than a simple love story.

Overall, I enjoyed the read. Its uncomplicated and light hearted, with a nice happy ending.

Read February 2014