This came in my first Book Riot quarterly box, and it's definitely not something I would have picked up otherwise (although I do love the semi-psychedThis came in my first Book Riot quarterly box, and it's definitely not something I would have picked up otherwise (although I do love the semi-psychedelic cover!). It's about a Bangladeshi family who lives in Brooklyn -- father Anwar runs a pharmacy and grows lots and lots of weed (he also has a fairly extensive seed catalog...something about saving up for the apocalypse? I was weirdly fascinated with the whole garden, it seemed beautiful!) and is also growing discontent with his life. Mother Hashi runs a hair salon (she's the lone disappointing character; I wanted more from her - she's really just the nagging wife, and while there are hints of something more, she's probably the flattest character of the bunch). Daughters Charu and Ella are polar opposites - Charu is outgoing and loud, while Ella is extremely introverted and suffers from hallucinations (the titular "bright lines") nearly every night. Also, they aren't really sisters, they're cousins. Hashi's brother (and Anwar's best friend) died when Ella was still very young, so the family took her in and raised her as their own. Ella has always nursed a secret crush on her cousin, but when she comes home this particular summer, she finds another teenage girl sleeping in her bed: Charu's friend Maya, who is hiding out for her extremely strict father. Ella immediately falls for Maya, and all three girls spend the summer having adventures all around the city.
It all seems perfect until, as it so often does, tragedy strikes. (view spoiler)[Maya's father finds out that she has been staying with the Saleem family, and of course his apartment happens to be right above Anwar's apothecary. There's a whole "you have corrupted my daughter" feud happening, and then Maya's father hires some goons to destroy the store, and then the Saleem's house. Also Anwar has the world's shortest affair with their upstairs tenant (hide spoiler)]. Then, the family heads to Bangladesh, so Hashi and Anwar can visit their homeland (and Hashi's father), and the girls can see the country for the first time. And then tragedy strikes again (view spoiler)[when Hashi and Anwar are killed in a car accident. The girls are left to rebuild their lives and try to figure out how to move on. And also Ella decides to live as El, a man. That plot is given short shrift -- there's mention throughout about how masculine El looks and feels, and when Hashi chops her hair short, she starts wearing her father's old clothes (which...weird). But then at the end suddenly there are masculine pronouns...I wish more had been made of this issue. It seems...tacked on. (hide spoiler)]
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this! It reminded me of Khaled Hosseini (someday, someday I will finally read The Kite Runner!), particularly with the gut-punching tragedy near the end, just when you think everyone will get to be happy. I'm thankful for my quarterly subscription for getting me to branch out...and this wasn't even in service of a Read Harder challenge!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Predictable. I have thoughts, but I'm not sure I even feel like taking the time to write them down -- if you picked up this book, you pretty much knowPredictable. I have thoughts, but I'm not sure I even feel like taking the time to write them down -- if you picked up this book, you pretty much know what you're in for, and there are zero surprises here. Anything remotely interesting is swept under the rug or dealt with in half a paragraph so we can talk about our feelings some more. And there's very little Hawaii! ...more
First 2016 Read Harder challenge complete! A comic or graphic novel, published in the last 3 years that's NOT about a superhero. Oddly specific, but lFirst 2016 Read Harder challenge complete! A comic or graphic novel, published in the last 3 years that's NOT about a superhero. Oddly specific, but luckily I read exactly no comics, so options were plentiful. I picked up the first issue on my Kindle, thinking it was the first VOLUME...super bummed when I realized it was only 1 "episode". But the library had volume one.
This is super cute! The humor is dry and sarcastic, lots of girl power without being preachy, and it reminds me a lot of Gravity Falls, which I adore even though I am far outside of the intended age range. This is one comic series I could actually see myself seeking out all of. ...more
This was a fun anthology. Obviously there are hits and misses, which is true of any short story collection, but even more so when you're dealing withThis was a fun anthology. Obviously there are hits and misses, which is true of any short story collection, but even more so when you're dealing with works by different authors. All of the stories are inspired by classic tales or horror movies. I like the footnotes at the end that list the inspirations, although I confess to flipping ahead and reading all of them just to see what was coming. I've split them into categories, but overall I'd say this is a solid 4-stars.
The good. The best stories in this collection are the ones that put an unexpected spin on their source material. "The Birds of Azalea Street" by Nova Ren Suma. I love Suma's writing, I love Hitchcock, and it also reminded me of Megan Abbott. The end. "In the Forest Dark & Deep" by Carrie Ryan. I wasn't sure at first, but ultimately came back around on this one. It was just so wonderfully creepy. "Fat Girl with a Knife" by Jonathan Mayberry. Zombies! "Sleepless" by Jay Kristoff. I was meh on this at first, particularly with all of the chat room stuff, but I LOVE the twist on Psycho. "The Girl without a Face" by Marie Lu. Again, love the twist. And this was probably the most genuinely scary of the bunch. "Stitches" by AG Howard. This might be my second favorite. Such a great spin on Frankenstein. "On the I-5" by Kendare Blake. Not familiar with the source material, but I like that this one went in a different direction than I was expecting.
The meh "Hide & Seek" by Megan Shepherd "Emmeline" by Cat Winters "The Flicker, The Fingers, The Beat, The Sigh" by April Genevieve Tucholke "M" by Stefan Bachman
These stories weren't terrible, but they weren't particularly memorable either (although I do love Shepherd's take on one of my favorite ridiculous late 90s horror movies: Final Destination). They're just predictable regurgitations of their source material.
The Terrible "The Dark, Scary Parts and All" by Danielle Paige. This was, like, rage-inducingly bad. It claims to be inspired by Frankenstein, but other than its Bella Swan-lite main character spouting some nonsense about the creature just wanting someone to wuv, there's nothing of Shelley's classic to be found here. Just some bullshit about the poor, sad, unpopular girl whom the devil's son has secretly been in love with because she's *so* special. Barf. The mere existence of this story knocks off half a star for me.
The WTF "Verse Chorus Verse" by Leigh Bardugo. I'm not even sure what happened! I want this to be a novel. "The Girl who Dreamed of Snow" by McCormick Templeman. Again, not sure what happened here...although not in a good way. Reminded me a bit of the Wildlings in A Song of Ice & Fire. This one just felt too mythology-heavy for a short story.
Finished this in the car on the way to work this morning!
I actually own the book -- bought it right after it came out in fact, and I tried to read itFinished this in the car on the way to work this morning!
I actually own the book -- bought it right after it came out in fact, and I tried to read it several years ago, but for some reason it just didn't hold my interest all that well. But I loved the audio of Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, and my library has pretty much all of Vowell's books on audio, so I gave this a second shot. Like with Lafayette, I feel like I've just sort of absorbed information from this book that will rear its head at opportune times (like during Scholastic Bowl matches!).
The main focus here is John Winthrop, governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who traveled to the States from England on the Arabella, not the Mayflower...we tend to gloss over large sections in traditional history class, skipping directly from the first Thanksgiving to the American Revolution, and I learned quite a bit about the intervening century and a half, thanks to Vowell. The Pequod War? Never heard of it until I read this book! It was also interesting to read this after having read Lafayette, which is about the Revolution. On an entirely unrelated note, I would really love it if she took on World War I -- that's like the great forgotten chapter of every history book.
Like any audiobook, some sections held my interest better than others, and since I was only ever in my car for 20 minutes at a stretch, my reading was once again kind of piecemeal. I have mixed feelings about audiobooks in general -- I love that I can "read" on my drive to work, but I feel like I'm not always giving the book my full attention. It's less of an issue on longer drives, or for books with shorter chapters (BJ Novak's short story collection, in spite of being kind of pretentious, was basically the perfect book for my short commute!), but most of Vowell's books are just one long continuous story -- there aren't super-clear divisions, i.e. "This is the Anne Hutchinson chapter". It's just...suddenly now we're talking about Anne Hutchinson. Granted, I enjoyed that section the most. I won't say it's disorganized, more like...fluid? The topic shifts aren't jarring or anything, just not clearly demarcated by, you know, chapters. I'm also pretty sure I would have gotten super bored with the Roger Williams stuff if it hadn't been narrated by Peter Dinklage (can he narrate all audiobooks? I could listen to that man talk for hours!)
Overall I'm glad I gave this a chance on audio, because I'm pretty sure I probably wouldn't have picked it up again in book form (even though it's right there on my shelf!). This is also the perfect time of year to read about terrible New England winters -- I can't remember the last time I saw the sun or was fully warm!...more
This is probably my 2nd favorite of the series (I still can’t bring myself to read The Likness, since I found Rob and Cassie both so annoying). The crThis is probably my 2nd favorite of the series (I still can’t bring myself to read The Likness, since I found Rob and Cassie both so annoying). The crime is interesting, the detective’s personal struggles don’t interfere too much, and nearly everything is resolved in the end. It’s like French can’t help herself -- there’s always one plot thread left dangling by the end of the story. Here, it’s (view spoiler)[the animal in the attic -- was there ever anything there? Did Pat imagine everything, including the neatly lined up skeletons? (hide spoiler)] In Secret Place it’s the supernatural element, in In the Woods, it’s half of the damn mystery, so really, she’s come a long way in terms of leaving stuff hanging.
Anyway, the case in question here is murder, obviously. In the titular Broken Harbor (now a development called Brianstown), the Spain family was -- seemingly -- attacked. Dad Pat died pretty much instantly from his wounds, children Emma and Jack were smothered, and mom Jennifer is barely clinging to life after multiple stab wounds. No sign of forced entry, and, since the development was never fully finished, very few neighbors around to have witnessed anything. Our detectives for this outing are Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy (who I swear shows up in Faithful Place, mostly just being a dick) and rookie Richie Curran. Of course, Kennedy has a connection to Broken Harbor -- it used to be kind of a resort town? Or maybe a poor people resort town? I fully admit to know jack-all about Ireland or Irish culture. There’s a whole thing here about boom and bust and recession (which is why the neighborhood was never finished...it’s seriously eerie), but I don’t have a great grasp on the context. French does a great job though of really hitting all of the class and cultural differences within the country -- similar to JK Rowling without the obsession with phonetic spelling. I think I said something similar after reading Career of Evil, but as an American I have pretty much the same view of Ireland as I do of England -- that place across the ocean where it rains a lot and people have cool accents. Also Ireland is green and there’s beer. Reading this series reminds me that Ireland and England are not, in fact, interchangeable!
Anyway. Kennedy’s family used to vacation in Broken Harbor every year...until his mother committed suicide by walking into the ocean. Apparently she always struggled with depression -- a secret the family worked to keep hidden for years, and in fact they were so good at it that after her death, people were convinced his father had done something to his mother. But this idea of keeping up appearances really hits home with the Spain case. See, the Spains were also victims of the recession -- they bought this giant, prefab house (which turns out to be made from pasteboard, essentially) and then Pat lost his job and their money woes just got worse and worse. But Jennifer was obsessed with keeping up appearances -- she didn’t want anyone to know they were having money problems, and she also didn’t want anyone to know that Pat was losing his grip on reality. See, even though someone wiped the family computer the night of the murders, Pat spent the last few months before his death obsessing over an animal in the attic. He had video monitors in every corner of the house, punched holes in the wall, set up a pretty lethal trap in the attic, all in the name of catching some creature he never actually laid eyes on. Jennifer is SO worried someone will think he’s nuts that she kind of starts to go nuts herself. And it doesn’t help that in the meantime (view spoiler)[one of the couple’s old friends is spying on them from the house next door, and occasionally breaking in. Connor’s occasional evidence just makes Jennifer think she’s going even crazier right along with Pat (hide spoiler)]. And also Kennedy has a crazy sister who shows up at inconvenient times.
I really thought this was going to turn out to be like the end of Dark Places -- two completely separate crimes. (view spoiler)[In that case, the mother had hired a hit on herself, and the guy panicked and killed her but also killed one of the daughters, while in the meantime, brother’s girlfriend was strangling the other daughter. I figured Pat killed the kids for some reason to do with the animal, and then Connor, having witnessed it, attacked him, and Jennifer was collateral damage. But no, turns out Jennifer was the one who truly broke, after watching Pat try to bait this “animal” and seeing the kids wake up terrified night after night, she decided she had to “get them out” so she smothered the kids, stabbed Pat, and stabbed herself, only she didn’t do it right and couldn’t manage to knick anything valuable. Then Connor actually did show up and she tried to get him to finish her off -- it’s unclear if he was unwilling or just unable to stab her in the right place (I’m going to go with unwilling, because seriously? Slit her throat. After losing so much blood already she’ll bleed out in no time). (hide spoiler)] My problem here was with the structure, as usual. One of the reasons I liked Secret Place so much was because the narrative wasn’t strictly linear -- rather than just hear about the months leading up to the murder as Stephen and Antoinette interviewed the girls, we have actual flashbacks that sort of allow us into their heads. Here, we have a metric fuck-ton of exposition. We hear about the saga of Pat vs. the possibly imaginary animal through pages and pages of internet forum posts. And we get the full story of what happened that night (view spoiler)[in a multiple-page, uninterrupted monologue from Jennifer. Which, again, too much telling, not enough showing. The narrative would definitely need to be restructured, but I would rather have seen actual flashbacks to the Spains before the attack -- let us wonder about Pat and Jennifer’s sanity, instead of basically spelling it out. And, because it can’t be said enough, less freaking focus on the detective’s personal woes. By the time I got to the end, I didn’t really even care what happened to Dina, and I wasn’t all that fussed about Kennedy quitting the force either. (hide spoiler)] I know, I know, part of a detective story is a memorable detective. I’ve made my peace with that. I think maybe because each book focuses on a different person? Maybe if the whole series were about one detective, or team of detectives, the personal shit wouldn’t be so glaringly obvious? But, then, there’s not much of it The Secret Place and I think the book is stronger for it. (Although I have to congratulate myself on correctly guessing that the next Murder Squad novel would be about Antoinette!)
Overall I really did like this, I just wish we’d had flashbacks instead of monologues. I do like that you can read this series in pretty much any order, which is helpful when you’re dealing with library books.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more