Category Archives: review
Our Kind of Cruelty
by Araminta Hall
This is a love story. Mike’s love story.
Mike Hayes fought his way out of a brutal childhood and into a quiet, if lonely life, before he met Verity Metcalf. V taught him about love, and in return, Mike has dedicated his life to making her happy. He’s found the perfect home, the perfect job, he’s sculpted himself into the physical ideal V has always wanted. He knows they’ll be blissfully happy together.
It doesn’t matter that she hasn’t been returning his emails or phone calls.
It doesn’t matter that she says she’s marrying Angus.
It’s all just part of the secret game they used to play. If Mike watches V closely, he’ll see the signs. If he keeps track of her every move he’ll know just when to come to her rescue…
A spellbinding, darkly twisted novel about desire and obsession, and the complicated lines between truth and perception, Our Kind of Cruelty introduces Araminta Hall, a chilling new voice in psychological suspense.
3 out of 5 FLEURS DE LIS
Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall
Since everyone else’s review is saying it, I’ll mention it too–this book holds some similarities to YOU by Caroline Kepnes. YOU is one of the best books I have read in recent memory, so once I made the comparisons, it was hard to stop comparing the two novels. But, Our Kind of Cruelty has a psychopathic main character with issues all his own.
The story is told from the viewpoint of Mike, whose girlfriend Verity (V for short) has broken up with him after he cheated on her while away at a job in New York City. Since Mike and V were obsessed with each other and were together for seven years doing things like sex games involving strangers, Mike takes this loss extremely hard. He eventually gains some perspective and he just knows that even though V is marrying someone else, she’ll come back around to needing him and he’ll be there waiting when she does.
Mike’s creepiness jumps off the page at you. He’s not even a somewhat likable psycho like Joe from YOU. The only person in the world he cares about is Verity, and he can barely spare a nice word to anyone else in his path. His coworkers and neighbors have noticed something off about him, but he seems to think of himself as normal and therein lies some of his psychosis.
To say Mike is obsessed with V is an understatement. He goes above and beyond the “normal stalker” actions like watching her inside her house, to some truly disturbing behaviors that again, he does not see any problem with. In his mind, he’s just doing whatever it takes to allow his love to come back to him.
There are two parts to this book, really, and for my part I found the tension and tone leading up to the climax more exciting than the aftermath. For me the final few chapters were a bit boring, and I read them kind of hurriedly so I could go ahead and finish the book. Unlike some others, I didn’t find the plot to have a big twist, and although I wouldn’t quite call it predictable, I knew some of the things were bound to happen.
Our Kind of Cruelty presents an interesting and timely juxtaposition between the truths and perceptions of male and female sexuality, and the constant fight between the person we are now and the one we used to be. I know this novel will have thriller fans talking this summer.
About the Author
Araminta Hall began her career in journalism as a staff writer on teen magazine Bliss, becoming Health and Beauty editor of New Woman. On her way, she wrote regular features for the Mirror’s Saturday supplement and ghost-wrote the super-model Caprice’s column.
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Thanks to the publisher, I have several copies of Our Kind of Cruelty to give away! Please leave a comment and I will choose winners on 4/30. US ONLY PLEASE.
The Underground Railroad
by Colson Whitehead
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood – where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.
In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor – engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven – but the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. Even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.
As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.
4 out of 5 FLEURS DE LIS
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Historical fiction as a whole doesn’t really appeal to me, but I had to read this book after seeing recommendations for it everywhere. As a Southerner, I’m glad I did, but it didn’t quite blow me away as I expected.
The story begins with the recounting of how an African woman named Ajarry was ripped from her home and brought to the US to become a slave. This origin is important because it shows how it all began, but the main character of this novel is Ajarry’s granddaughter, Cora.
Cora is working on a cotton plantation in Georgia, and has been on her own since the age of ten when her mother ran away in the night without her. Ever since then, she’s been an outcast. So when a fellow slave called Caesar asks her to run with him, she considers it, then agrees. Their journey will bring them to many places, but it will never really stop–because as long as there is a runaway slave, there is someone waiting to catch them and return them to their former life.
As a main character, I’m not sure if I would describe Cora as compelling, but she has a quiet strength that is unlike any other I’ve encountered. She’s never one to complain, but as she learns more she begins to question the world and that gives her the courage and intelligence to see that she deserves a far better life than the one she was born into.
There are a couple of action scenes that put you on the edge of your seat, but for the most part the story moves along languidly. Cora passes months here or weeks there without anything happening, then time will skip forward until the action begins again. I was torn between wanting more to happen, and enjoying the fact that the sometimes slow pace allows the reader to truly see how much Cora is growing through her encounters with the wider world.
As a citizen of the South, I can’t say I read about anything I didn’t necessarily know pertaining to slavery, but a lot of its’ horrors are described in detail in this book, and for that reason it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s one thing to know about what the history books say, and another to hear about accounts of torture that happened to real, named people.
The Underground Railroad was a more introspective book than I anticipated, but I still devoured it pretty quickly. The ending is fast paced and leaves you with some glimmer of hope. Cora’s story is important in the realm of American history, and this novel has the perfect voice to tell it.
About the Author
Colson Whitehead was born in 1969, and was raised in Manhattan.
The Underground Railroad, a novel, was published in the summer of 2016. It won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Carnegie Medal for Fiction, and was a #1 New York Times Bestseller.
He has received a MacArthur Fellowship, A Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers Award, the Dos Passos Prize, and a fellowship at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers.
He has taught at the University of Houston, Columbia University, Brooklyn College, Hunter College, New York University, Princeton University, Wesleyan University, and been a Writer-in-Residence at Vassar College, the University of Richmond, and the University of Wyoming.
He lives in New York City.
The Baby Plan
by Kate Rorick
Women’s Fiction/Chick Lit
In The Lizzie Bennet Diaries creator Kate Rorick’s first adult fiction novel, we enter the wild, bewildering world of modern pregnancies. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll shake your head as you wonder where everyone’s sanity went…
Meet the mothers…
Nathalie Kneller: Nathalie’s plan: to announce her pregnancy now that she’s finally made it past twelve weeks! But just as she’s about to deliver (so to speak) the big news to her family, her scene-stealing sister barfs all over the Thanksgiving centerpiece. Yup, Lyndi’s pregnant too, swiping the spotlight once more…
Lyndi Kneller: Lyndi’s plan: finally get her life together! She’s got a new apartment, new promotion, new boyfriend. What she didn’t count on—a new baby! She can barely afford her rent, much less a state-of-the-art stroller…
Sophia Nunez: Sophia’s plan: Once she gets her daughter Maisey off to college, she’ll finally be able to enjoy life as make-up artist to one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, and girlfriend to one of rock’s hottest musicians. But after 18 years she discovers the stork is once again on its way…
Now these women are about to jump headlong into the world of modern day pregnancy. It’s a world of over the top gender reveal parties (with tacky cakes and fireworks); where every morsel you eat is scrutinized and discussed; where baby names are crowd-sourced and sonograms are Facebook-shared. And where nothing goes as planned…
2 out of 5 FLEURS DE LIS
Chick lit is a genre I don’t mind dipping into when I feel the need for some light and humorous escapism. This book though, made me frustrated and annoyed for most of the time.
The story centers around 3 connected women who all happen to be pregnant at the same time: Nathalie (I don’t care how you say it’s pronounced, it’s IMPOSSIBLE for be to read it without a TH sound), a 33 year old teacher, her sister Lyndi, and Sophia, a makeup artist in her late thirties who has another daughter getting ready to graduate from high school. Although the three women are pregnant, they are all at different places in their lives and dealing with the expectancies others push onto them.
I can’t say I liked any of the characters in this book. They all were rude or careless or just plain naive. And it’s an easy plot device that all three have baby daddies that start acting like jackasses. Nothing anyone did in this entire novel made much sense at all.
I have had 2 children, so I guess I am supposed to relate to what each character is experiencing, but I didn’t really. Though I had a lot of the physical symptoms mentioned, I don’t think I lost my sense of logic as these women do, and I believe that it’s really an overused trope to say that pregnant women are highly emotional and “crazy.”
Finally, and most annoyingly, there were several plot lines that just didn’t bother to get wrapped up at all. I can’t mention them specifically for spoiler reasons, but issues between Nathalie and her husband don’t get a sense of closure or a reason at all. The end felt rather sloppy.
If you like to read chick lit with humor, there are better options out there. Sadly, The Baby Plan stuck to cliches and predictable plot elements to tell its story.
About the Author
Kate Rorick is an Emmy Award–winning writer who has worked on a number of television shows, most recently The Librarians on TNT. She was also a writer for the hit web series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, and authored the two series tie-in novels, The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet and The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet. In her other life, she writes bestselling historical romance novels under the name Kate Noble. Kate lives in Los Angeles with her family.
The Wild Inside
by Jamey Bradbury
A promising talent makes her electrifying debut with this unforgettable novel, set in the Alaskan wilderness, that is a fusion of psychological thriller and coming-of-age tale in the vein of Jennifer McMahon, Chris Bohjalian, and Mary Kubica.
A natural born trapper and hunter raised in the Alaskan wilderness, Tracy Petrikoff spends her days tracking animals and running with her dogs in the remote forests surrounding her family’s home. Though she feels safe in this untamed land, Tracy still follows her late mother’s rules: Never Lose Sight of the House. Never Come Home with Dirty Hands. And, above all else, Never Make a Person Bleed.
But these precautions aren’t enough to protect Tracy when a stranger attacks her in the woods and knocks her unconscious. The next day, she glimpses an eerily familiar man emerge from the tree line, gravely injured from a vicious knife wound—a wound from a hunting knife similar to the one she carries in her pocket. Was this the man who attacked her and did she almost kill him? With her memories of the events jumbled, Tracy can’t be sure.
Helping her father cope with her mother’s death and prepare for the approaching Iditarod, she doesn’t have time to think about what she may have done. Then a mysterious wanderer appears, looking for a job. Tracy senses that Jesse Goodwin is hiding something, but she can’t warn her father without explaining about the attack—or why she’s kept it to herself.
It soon becomes clear that something dangerous is going on . . . the way Jesse has wormed his way into the family . . . the threatening face of the stranger in a crowd . . . the boot-prints she finds at the forest’s edge.
Her family is in trouble. Will uncovering the truth protect them—or is the threat closer than Tracy suspects?
2 out of 5 FLEURS DE LIS
The first half of this book was great to me, which is why it’s such a shame that the second half veered off so weirdly that I ended up having to give a less than stellar review.
Tracy Petrikoff lives in rural Alaska with her father and brother after the death of her mother a few years prior. The family raises sled dogs, and in past years Tracy’s father Bill has run the Iditarod and done pretty well at it. So, dogs and racing are in 17 year old Tracy’s blood…but so is something else.
Ever since birth, Tracy has known she’s different. She’d rather be in the woods than the house any day, and feels she has more in common with the squirrels and rabbits she comes across than other kids her age. As she grows older, the wild streak inside Tracy becomes harder to tame, and she sometimes finds it hard to have the self control not to harm other people. But, she is still a teenage girl, and butting heads with her father happens. He just doesn’t know why it’s so dangerous when she gets grounded to their house, but he’ll learn.
If I had been told that there was going to be a supernatural element to this novel, I probably would have picked it up a lot sooner than I did. The mystery lies around what exactly Tracy is and why she does what her instincts tell her, and it’s intriguing to see how she has to strike that balance between her humanity and her “wild inside.”
There are actually several secrets and mysteries throughout the book. At the beginning, Tracy attacks a man who tries to grab her in the forest. He then comes to her house and her father saves his life. An enigmatic teenage drifter named Jesse comes around looking for a place to stay, and Tracy is immediately suspicious and it turns out she has good reason to be.
The best parts of the book, in my opinion, are flashback that show conversations between Tracy and her mother. You can tell that the two were close, and it turns out it was because the two of them were the same in so many ways. Tracy’s mother understood her and tried her best to make sure she felt comfortable in her own skin and in her family. The loss of her mother was profound and Tracy finally sees how hard it impacted every single member of their household.
If you have a weak stomach, this book is not for you. There are many bloody scenes, some involving animals and some involving humans, and they’re described rather bluntly. There are a couple of other parts I can’t mention for spoiler reasons, but if you are easily disturbed I would again advise you to stay away.
In the end, I was too infuriated with Tracy and her bad decision making to be happy with how things turned out. I know she was probably never meant to be a main character a reader can root for, but there are things I cannot believe she intentionally did and seemed senseless. I get what Tracy did for her family and for herself, but I still can’t agree with it fully.
About the Author
Born in Illinois, Jamey Bradbury has lived in Alaska for fifteen years, leaving only briefly to earn her MFA from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Winner of an Estelle Campbell Memorial Award from the National Society of Arts and Letters, she has published fiction in Black Warrior Review, Sou’wester, and Zone 3, and she has written for the Anchorage Daily News, TheBillfold.com, and storySouth. Jamey lives in Anchorage, Alaska.
The Italian Party
by Christina Lynch
A delicious and sharply funny page-turner about “innocent” Americans abroad in 1950s Siena, Italy. Newly married, Scottie and Michael are seduced by Tuscany’s famous beauty. But the secrets they are keeping from each other force them beneath the splendid surface to a more complex view of ltaly, America and each other.
When Scottie’s Italian teacher–a teenager with secrets of his own–disappears, her search for him leads her to discover other, darker truths about herself, her husband and her country. Michael’s dedication to saving the world from communism crumbles as he begins to see that he is a pawn in a much different game. Driven apart by lies, Michael and Scottie must find their way through a maze of history, memory, hate and love to a new kind of complicated truth.
Half glamorous fun, half an examination of America’s role in the world, and filled with sun-dappled pasta lunches, prosecco, charming spies and horse racing, The Italian Party is a smart pleasure.
2.5 out of 5 FLEURS DE LIS
Ehh, this one was kind of a mess for me, and not what I was expecting. The book’s description bills it as “fun” and “funny” but it was really neither of those things for me. I didn’t catch the spy angle that much either. Yes, one of the main characters is a spy…but he seems like Spy Lite compared to others like James Bond or Michael Westen.
It’s the mid 1950’s, and Scottie and Michael are a recently married American couple who have moved to Siena, Italy to sell Ford tractors to technologically impaired Italian farmers–or at least that is the husband’s cover story. In reality, Michael works for the CIA, and he’s on a mission to make sure Siena isn’t taken over by communist factions in the delicate wake of WW2. Scottie, for her part, is intent on being the perfect housewife, because she is concealing a secret of her own. Until the day her teenage Italian tutor goes missing, and she feels compelled to spring into action.
The part of this novel that was kind of funny to me is also the part that’s true–the fact that Michael is trying so hard to live his American life in another country. You can’t just move to Italy and expect that you’ll be able to have instant dinners and fast food and other American conveniences. But America was so afraid of anyone other than themselves after WW2, this was the attitude a lot of people had. Michael’s higher ups send him copies of American magazines like Life and Time and encourage him to leave them around for Italians to find. Scottie is requested to make dinner one night and she has to scrounge around the city to find American ingredients, because Michael is afraid of becoming “too Italian.” It’s all a ridiculous notion but rooted in fact.
The characterization in this book is good for some, and basic for others. It’s true that almost no one you meet in this novel can be trusted at face value, and some that you might have preconceived notions about are actually hiding much deeper issues than you would have thought.
There’s not very much action, to be told, and the biggest mystery of the plot gets solved rather accidentally. The end is also kind of bittersweet. Although Michael and Scottie are not the best people, you end up kind of rooting for them and wish them the best.
About the Author
Christina Lynch is a professor of English at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, California. A former Milan correspondent for W and Women’s Wear Daily, she has written on staff for television shows such as The Dead Zone, Encore! Encore!, Unhappily Ever After and Wildfire. The Italian Party is her first novel.
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by Emma Donoghue
In the latest masterpiece by Emma Donoghue, bestselling author of Room, an English nurse brought to a small Irish village to observe what appears to be a miracle-a girl said to have survived without food for months-soon finds herself fighting to save the child’s life.
Tourists flock to the cabin of eleven-year-old Anna O’Donnell, who believes herself to be living off manna from heaven, and a journalist is sent to cover the sensation. Lib Wright, a veteran of Florence Nightingale’s Crimean campaign, is hired to keep watch over the girl.
Written with all the propulsive tension that made Room a huge bestseller, THE WONDER works beautifully on many levels–a tale of two strangers who transform each other’s lives, a powerful psychological thriller, and a story of love pitted against evil.
The latest masterpiece by Emma Donoghue, bestselling author of Room.
3 out of 5 FLEURS DE LIS
A little word of warning: if you are planning on listening to this story in audiobook format, as I did, then you should know that the narrator puts on a thick Irish brogue for some characters that can be hard to understand. For this reason, I kind of wish I had just read the book instead.
The story is set in August 1859, and is told from the point of view of Mrs. Lib Wright, who after becoming widowed set off to serve as a nurse under the training of none other than Florence Nightingale herself. Lib is sent to a private household in Ireland to maintain a two week watch on a little girl named Anna O’Donnell. Anna claims to not have taken food for the past 4 months, and Lib is being sent to confirm whether that is true.
Many of the people of the town and beyond its’ borders have come to view pious Anna as a sort of miracle child. Lib starts her job with a biased, skeptical mind but soon comes to know the child better and just how much her religious beliefs mean to her. When the truth behind Anna’s motivations for her fast are revealed, Lib is rocked and sets out to do what she can to help Anna realize the consequences of what she is doing.
I chose this book because of the mystery aspect of it–a child hasn’t eaten for four months? How is she alive? But soon, I was taken in by Anna and her congruous nature, both painfully innocent and wise beyond her years. The entire first half of the novel is basically laying the foundation for the reader to get to know Lib and the O’Donnells, and to see a sort of friendship grow between the nurse and the girl.
It’s frustrating, as a mother, to have a child that turns down food, so the idea of having to watch as your does this for four consecutive months is terrifying. It’s also terrifying that Anna’s parents believed so much in their daughter’s obsession with her religion that they allowed this to go on. But it was a different time, and a different country, so I had to kind of just go along with the fact that they did let it happen. So many people were complicit in Anna’s fasting and it was very disheartening to see that this child was continuously allowed to make her own decisions.
As far as the main plot, it started off really slowly but I was glad for the slow burn because when all was revealed towards the end, I was truly shocked at what had transpired. There’s a subplot with a romance angle, which was kind of OK but I did see it coming from miles away.
This is a difficult book to review without giving away the heart of the story, but I’ll say I think it will appeal to a large audience of readers. Whether you’re a believer or not, The Wonder will make you think about your own relationship with your higher power and how it has a hold on your life and the lives of those you love most.
About the Author
Emma is the youngest of eight children of Frances and Denis Donoghue. She attended Catholic convent schools in Dublin, apart from one year in New York at the age of ten. In 1990 she earned a first-class honours BA in English and French from University College Dublin, and in 1997 a PhD (on the concept of friendship between men and women in eighteenth-century English fiction) from the University of Cambridge. Since the age of 23, Donoghue has earned her living as a full-time writer. After years of commuting between England, Ireland, and Canada, in 1998 she settled in London, Ontario, where she lives with her partner and their son and daughter.
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If I Die Tonight
by Alison Gaylin
Late one night in the quiet Hudson Valley town of Havenkill, a distraught woman stumbles into the police station—and lives are changed forever.
Aimee En, once a darling of the ’80s pop music scene, claims that a teenage boy stole her car, then ran over another young man who’d rushed to help.
As Liam Miller’s life hangs in the balance, the events of that fateful night begin to come into focus. But is everything as it seems?
The case quickly consumes social media, transforming Liam, a local high school football star, into a folk hero, and the suspect, a high school outcast named Wade Reed, into a depraved would-be killer. But is Wade really guilty? And if he isn’t, why won’t he talk?
2.5 out of 5 FLEURS DE LIS
Jackie is a single mom of two teenage sons: Connor, the youngest, is mostly obedient and helpful to his mom, but Wade, who used to be his mom’s sidekick, has been secretive and seems to have a dark cloud hanging over him for the past several months. When a classmate dies, Wade is implicated in the accident and soon the little town turns on him and his family. But if he didn’t do it, and he won’t reveal the truth to his own mother, how can he clear his name and stop his life from being ruined?
From the beginning, I wasn’t as into this mystery as I could have been. Teenage boys hiding something is nothing new, and some of the plot points seemed very obvious to me. I also thought the progress was very slow, and this wasn’t helped by the author throwing in all kinds of relatively useless information about the characters.
So we have a washed up rocker named Aimee, who claims that she was robbed after a show one night by a teenage boy in a black hood. When Liam, the victim of the story, tries to stop the robbery, he is hit by Aimee’s car and dies. There are multiple suspects including Aimee herself, and it’s like extracting teeth to get any of the players involved to tell the truth about the night of the accident.
I didn’t like how the mother, Jackie, basically ALLOWED her son to be so shady and hide things from her. Yes, I know, teens will do that, but when someone has died, the kid doesn’t GET to have secrets anymore. I also wouldn’t have sent him to school in such a situation, but Jackie did. There were some bad parenting decisions made for the majority of the book. I also felt that Wade was highly overdramatic, and when the truth finally came out about what he’d been keeping from his mother, it wasn’t as serious as the life or death situation he was trying to take the blame for instead. I couldn’t believe the kid would rather go to prison than tell his mom the truth.
The author does a fine job of making you suspect that maybe Wade really did kill Liam, but there are so many other characters involved in the incident of that night that your attention is thrown in a lot of different directions. In the end, there is a deus ex machina that really just brought the story to a rather bland ending.
I know this is a thriller, but I didn’t feel any thrills at all. I would recommend avoiding this one as it’s quite forgettable.
About the Author
The River at Night
by Erica Ferencik
A high-stakes drama set against the harsh beauty of the Maine wilderness, charting the journey of four friends as they fight to survive the aftermath of a white water rafting accident, The River at Night is a nonstop and unforgettable thriller.
3 out of 5 FLEURS DE LIS
It occurs to me that I have never read a book about surviving in the wilderness, and because that was what I was expecting this book to be about, I now want to. But, The River at Night was not the book I expected it to be.
A group of four friends in their late thirties go to Maine to conquer a tough whitewater rapids along with a young guide. Though the friends have all been through their own struggles, both separately and among themselves, only the bravest of them, Pia, is even close to being physically and psychologically ready for this adventure. Through a series of freak accidents and bad decisions, the women become trapped in the forest with a raging river and a very unexpected threat chasing them as they attempt to make it home alive.
The story is told through the point of view of one of the women, Wini, who is stuck in a job which will soon be obsolete and is on her own after a failed marriage. The rest of the group consists of Pia, the thrill seeking leader who pushes her more introverted friends to take these dangerous vacations; Rachel, an RN and recovering alcoholic who balances her blunt manner with a deep love for her friends; and Sandra, a mother who is recovering from cancer and getting ready to leave her marriage.
The women were not feeling great about going on the trip in the first place, and some sketchy things happen before they even get started that would have made some people run. The friends, though, all have some desire to impress and follow Pia, so they do. This is one of the main things I couldn’t understand about the dynamic between the characters. I am not that far behind these women in age and I feel like if you have been friends with someone for fifteen years, as they all claim to have been, this feeling of needing to prove yourself to your friend should be long past. Especially if you have been at each other’s sides through tough situations.
I also thought that the plot pacing was off. It took half the book until the group really got into the river and started their journey, and then while there were some heart racing and action packed scenes in between, the end seemed to come very fast after the women came across their threat. I also didn’t feel like there was enough follow up to the end, and I just wanted more of a sense of how all the women were affected after the events.
All in all this was not a bad book, but as I said, just not what I expected. It’s sort of a nature/suspense novel with the bonds of friendship tying it all together. It makes a sort of sense in its’ way, and others might like it better than I did.
About the Author
Oprah chose Erica Ferencik’s debut novel, The River at Night, (Simon & Schuster, Gallery/Scout Press,) as a #1 Pick, calling the book “the page-turning novel you’ve been waiting for, a heart-pounding debut.” Entertainment Weeklynamed it a “Must Read,” and calls the novel “harrowing…a visceral, white knuckle rush.” Jungle, a thriller set in the Peruvian rainforest, will be released in late 2018. Her work has appeared in Salon and The Boston Globe, as well as on National Public Radio. Her novel, Repeaters, has been optioned for film.
by Karen Perry
David and Caroline Connolly are swimming successfully through their marriage’s middle years—raising two children; overseeing care for David’s ailing mother; leaning into their careers, both at David’s university teaching job, where he’s up for an important promotion, and at the ad agency where Caroline has recently returned to work after years away while the children were little. The recent stresses of home renovation and of a brief romantic betrayal (Caroline’s) are behind them. The Connollys know and care for each other deeply.Then one early fall afternoon, a student of sublime, waiflike beauty appears in David’s university office and says, “I think you might be my father.” And the fact of a youthful passion that David had tried to forget comes rushing back. In the person of this intriguing young woman, the Connollys may have a chance to expand who they are and how much they can love, or they may be making themselves vulnerable to menace. They face either an opportunity or a threat—but which is which? What happens when their hard-won family happiness meets a hard-luck beautiful girl?
4 out of 5 FLEURS DE LIS
Let me start by saying that this book has a very slow burn. Usually, I would have given up on a book in which the plot moves do slowly, but I could sense that the relationships between the characters were the main attraction here and what needed to be watched more than plot development. But if you’re expecting a lot of things to happen, this is not the book for you.
David and Caroline’s marriage was probably not hanging on by much anyway, by the time Zoe came into their lives. Zoe claims to be David’s daughter from a previous relationship, and Caroline, who has always known that Zoe’s mother was the real love of David’s life, is rocked to see such a reminder of his past back in their lives in the present. Add to this the fact of the children David and Caroline have and their not taking too kindly to this wisp of a girl, and the whole book simmers like a pot about to boil over.
From the first meeting between David and Zoe, I could tell something was up with here. It’s hard to believe David couldn’t see through her, but in my opinion he wanted that connection to his past so badly, he chose to see what he wanted to see when it came to Zoe. Zoe is not a good person and that is confirmed by multiple people throughout the novel, but she has a way with men and can usually get them to see her innocent persona when she needs them to.
As a woman I couldn’t help but feel for Caroline, though she was not entirely innocent through this story. She strayed from David, but who among us wouldn’t be hurt upon learning our spouse only married us as a second option? I don’t know if I ever really felt any love between the couple.
I would say the main problem I had with Girl Unknown is that only Caroline seemed to be able to see through Zoe’s flaky shield. She couldn’t get David to believe her, even when blatantly mistreated by Zoe, and this just put the nails in the coffin of their marriage. Zoe was able to way too easily manipulate so many people.
The final chapters of this book are amazing. They tell what unfolds from a distant third person point of view, and it’s chilling to see. I was not expecting anything that happened, and I was left in shock for the last few pages. Girl Unknown is a dreary but highly entertaining read that those who enjoy tales of family intricacies will love.
About the Authors
Karen Perry is the pen name of Dublin-based authors Paul Perry and Karen Gillece. Together they wrote Girl Unkown.
Paul Perry is the author of a number of critically acclaimed books. A recipient of the Hennessy Award for New Irish Writing, he teaches creative writing at University College, Dublin.
Karen Gillece is the author of several critically acclaimed novels. In 2009 she won the European Union Prize for Literature (Ireland).
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Little Fires Everywhere
by Celeste Ng
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia’s.
Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of long-held secrets and the ferocious pull of motherhood-and the danger of believing that planning and following the rules can avert disaster, or heartbreak.
4 out of 5 FLEURS DE LIS
With a novel with a great number of characters and such a sweeping plot as this book has, it’s hard to know where to begin when it comes to a review. Little Fires Everywhere can be thought of as a thick rope, in which each strand of twisted nylon is intricately woven into the whole, and each strand has something important to offer when it comes to contributing to the overall story.
As its’ basis, it’s a story of how two very different families become intertwined in each other’s lives one year in the late 90’s, in prim and proper Shaker Heights, Ohio. There’s much to be said about the town being a character of its’ own; the setting and all the reader comes to know about it play an integral part of how the plot plays out.
The Richardson family is well off and has been a part of Shaker Heights since its’ founding. The father is an attorney and isn’t actually present that much, and the mother Elena is a journalist working on small pieces for the local newspaper. Elena is proud and thinks herself kind and giving, but I could tell from the beginning that her kindnesses didn’t come without later-to-be-named stipulations. Oldest daughter Lexi is a senior and Ivy League bound. Son Tripp is a sports star, attractive and beloved by all the girls. Younger son Moody is sensitive and speculative, and youngest daughter Izzie is a rebellious spitfire who is always at odds with her mother’s meticulously planned life.
The Richardsons come to know the Warrens when they move into their rental duplex. Mia is young, an artist with a wandering spirit who only holds down menial jobs because they pay for her art supplies. Pearl is her daughter, quiet and bookish but longing for a sense of home. Pearl and Moody become immediate friends, and before long the Warrens and the Richardsons are getting involved in each other’s lives in intimate and irreversible ways.
Now, the first chapter of the book will tell you what the immediate consequences were, and then the story unfolds from the beginning to tell you how the characters got to where they are. There are also several flashbacks to the pasts of a lot of characters, so if you don’t like non-linear storytelling, I would say Little Fires Everywhere is not for you. I happen to like a good deal of background information as long as it is relevant to the plot, and the flashbacks here only enrich the story further.
The conversations and the way events unfolded in the novel felt so natural to me; I could really see and hear each character in my mind. I listened to the audiobook version of this book, and I’m glad I did because I am sometimes a skip ahead reader ( :O ) and getting ahead of myself in this book would have made the whole thing not come together as beautifully as it did, in my opinion.
The Warrens and the Richardsons couldn’t be more different, and that’s why the two families coming together ultimately leads to dissension. There really wasn’t too much interaction between the two mothers in the story until the end, and I was waiting for this because I knew when it happened it would be disastrous. But the story ended quietly, with not as many fireworks as I had hoped for.
I enjoyed Little Fires Everywhere a great deal, but the ending did let me down a little bit. I was both sad at the way things worked out, and frustrated that the entire truth did not get revealed to everyone. I feel like reviewing this book doesn’t do more than give you a broad picture of what the plot is about, so I’ll say it’s worth a read just so you can see a masterpiece in story weaving, because that’s what the author has accomplished here.
About the Author
Celeste Ng is the author of the novel Everything I Never Told You, which was a New York Times bestseller, a New York Times Notable Book of 2014, Amazon’s #1 Best Book of 2014, and named a best book of the year by over a dozen publications. Everything I Never Told You was also the winner of the Massachusetts Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, the ALA’s Alex Award, and the Medici Book Club Prize, and was a finalist for numerous awards, including the Ohioana Award, the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award, and the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award.
Celeste grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio, in a family of scientists. Celeste attended Harvard University and earned an MFA from the University of Michigan (now the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan), where she won the Hopwood Award. Her fiction and essays have appeared in One Story, TriQuarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, the Kenyon Review Online, and elsewhere, and she is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize.
Currently, she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her second novel, Little Fires Everywhere, was published by Penguin Press in fall 2017.