The Last Good Girl

In The Last Good Girl, Emily Shaprio disappears after a night at the college bar. Allison Leotta sets up the story really well with current chapters from the pov of the prosecutor Anna Curtis, as well as transcripts of vlogs that Emily did for a media class and transcripts from a disciplinary committee. The main suspect is Dylan Highsmith, a wealthy frat boy who had been accused of raping Emily months earlier.

As we follow Anna Curtis in her search for information about Emily’s past, Leotta shines the spotlight on how colleges hide the rape culture that is prevalent on this, and many other, college campus. Cover-ups, buy-offs, deflection, anything to help the young-man continue HIS education and not impact HIS future, especially if there’s a big enough donation.

Anna is desperate not to let the rapist win, to the point where its impacting her family and friends. There’s a nice twist at the end, but it really the social injustice within this novel that drew me into the story and kept reading.

Interesting, well-written read.

Read August 2017

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The Wangs vs. The World

Jade Chang’s The Wangs vs. The World tells the story of the Wangs after their patriarch looses all their money, homes, cars, etc after a bad business venture. The time period is the beginning of the economic collapse that would devastate so many people, but this story, while it talks a little about the world’s problems, really is a story about the Wangs. For centuries, the Wangs were wealthy land owners in China. This branch of the family survived the war with Japan by escaping to Taiwan.
Charlie started fresh in the new world and ended up with a makeup empire that collapsed due to bad timing and a lot of hubris. Saina, his oldest daughter, moved to NY and became a well known artist, but recently had a crushing show that may have ruined her career. Since she bought her house on her own, no one’s coming to repossess it and the rest of the family will need to move in with her.Andrew, middle child and virgin, drops out of college since his dad can’t foot the bill anymore. Grace, an internet fashion blogger and prep school attendee, also has to leave school. Along with Charlie’s second wife Barbra, the rest of the family drives across country to begin their new life at Saina’s country home.

The novel switches characters often so we really see the impact that this move and the financial/success changes have on all the family members and how it changes how they see themselves.

There’s a lot going on in this novel since each character has to grow and change to survive this. But the love thats shared by the family will help them move on. There’s also a lot of Chinese-American culture references which I found enlightening and don’t think I’ve read anything from this perspective.

At first the switching between characters was not enjoyable, but by the end of the novel I was waiting for each family member’s perspective of the current events.

Slow, but very interesting read.

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.

 

Home

In Home, two men with incredible wealth behind them are able to break into an underground sex business with a lot of death and explosions and leave completely unharmed. Harlan Coben’s characters are over the top masculine, with sensitive spots for the women they love.

Home was a quick, fun read where Myron Bolitar and his friend Win are able to rescue a boy kidnapped 10 years earlier and solve the mystery of what happened to his friend. They are able to do things outside the law without any repercussions and set things right according to what they deem is right. All the time, traveling on private jets and cars, they are whisked around the world to find out what happened to Win’s nephew and friend 10 years ago.

The whole story is so unbelievable, but an enjoyable read, even with the ridiculous masculinity oozing from the Batman-like characters.

Read April 2017

Revolver

What a great novel! Duance Swierczynski ties so many different things together in Revolver. This is a story about race relations in Philadelphia in the 1960’s, the evolution of criminal science, how family history affects everyone and their choices, overcoming racism in a race-seperated world, police officers relationships, Polish and Black culture in America, and so many relationships that are tied together between two different families.

Revolver is set in 3 different time periods and Swierczynski rotates between the 3 with 3 different narrators for each. In 1965, we meet Stan Walchek, a police officer, and hear his story that will lead up to his death. In 1995, we meet Jim Walchek, Stan’s son and also a police officer, who in addition to another major crime investigation, he is trying to revenge his father and partner’s murder. In 2015, we have Audrey Kornbluth, Jim’s adopted daughter and a Criminal Science student, who begins researching Stan’s murder as part of her final project. In each generation, intertwined are the stories of George Wildey, Stan’s partner; George Wildey Junior, George’s son; and Lieutenant Ben Wildey, George’s grandson. The Walchek and Wildey’s stories bounce off each other in ways that even the characters don’t know about. These families have been connected to one another for decades and both have police as well as criminals in them.

This was such an enjoyable book to read and to experience an intermingling of cultures during a turbulent time in American history.

Read April 2017

Three Sisters, Three Queens

I’ve read other Philippa Gregory novels and really enjoyed them. It was difficult for me to get through Three Sisters, Three Queens and I’m trying to determine what it was.

On one hand, Gregory takes the mostly unknown story of Queen Margaret of Scotland and makes her a feminist icon by having her marry whom she wanted, not who she was dictated to marry. She fought hard for the legacy of her son, the heir of Scotland and England and even battled against her 2nd husband for her reign.

On the other hand, Gregory makes Margaret out to be a petty, superficial, entitled brat who does nothing but compare herself to her sister, Queen Mary of France, and her sister-in-law, Queen Katherine of England, All of these women fought hard for their own rights, but are capricious with no further thought than themselves.

The story starts when Margaret is young and not married, and she shortly loses several members of her family. She’s married off, still quite young, to a much older King of Scotland to help broker a peace between the England and Scotland. Much of the history of this time period, that I know, centers on King Henry VII and his upheaval of the Catholic Church in England. Part of that story is in this novel, but more about what leads up to it from a Queen’s point of view. While I found many aspects of the period of time fascinating, I had a hard time getting past the pettiness of Queen Margaret.

Read April 2017

Whispers in the Mist

Lisa Alber writes about a quaint little village on the Irish coast that has an annual Matchmaker festival where the town is inundated with romantics looking for love and so many others taking advantage of the festive occasion. When the grey skies start rolling in, the myth of Grey Man starts scaring the children and when a stranger shows up dead, it begins to scare the adults as well. Whispers in the Mist was a great read with so many unique characters who all have history with one another, as happens in small towns.

The clues left along the way seem to cloud the story even more, but the ending was suspenseful and unexpected.

Enjoyable read. March 2017.