Wow. These are some terrible people. I feel like I need to read a book about kittens farting rainbows to get this out of my head!
I heard about this thWow. These are some terrible people. I feel like I need to read a book about kittens farting rainbows to get this out of my head!
I heard about this through Book Riot...one of their big “What we’re reading” posts (either the “look over our shoulders” or “best of the month,” I can’t remember). The reader described it as a super-compelling mystery that was original and impossible to put down. I flew through it in a couple of days (partially because The Raven King comes out today and I want to read it right away!), so the story moves along fairly quickly, but there’s just something ineffable about this book that rubs me the wrong way. There are, of course, the inevitable comparisons to Gone Girl, because every book featuring a dysfunction, unlikable married couple will be compared to Gone Girl until the end of time. Like the Twilight effect for grownups. And much like Nick and Amy, Scott and Elise are pretty terrible. And also like Nick and Amy, they get increasingly worse (and less sympathetic) as the novel goes on.
Elise’s father (who’s rich and may or may not be leaving her everything since her brother’s in jail) is dying and she and husband Scott are living in his Hampton’s house -- in the winter -- basically just waiting for him to bite it. Fun! As the story progresses, Victor only grows more odious (and eventually comes home to die), but at the same time it’s hard to feel too sorry for Scott and Elise because again: they’re kind of terrible. Scott just drinks his way through Victor’s booze and grows increasingly obsessed with the apparently empty house next door. The lights are on a timer, but he’s convinced no one actually lives there, so eventually he breaks in and starts imagining all sorts of horrors that could have occurred. There’s a definite Hitchcockian vibe to this part -- the empty house, the secrets the owners could have been hiding...when he eventually convinces Elise to come over with him, they find a bloodstained mattress and immediately suspect that it’s a murder scene. But then Scott starts talking to Victor...
So, long convoluted story short, (view spoiler)[there IS someone staying in the house. Her name is Carmelita and eventually it comes out that she’s Elise’s half-sister, and Victor’s been abusing her for years...but she kind of likes it? Or has Stockholmed herself into liking it? What I don’t get is that Victor’s clearly bedridden and not going anywhere, but the description of her bite marks sounds like they’re...fresh. Plot hole. Also Elise herself was abused, and then she ended up becoming part of Victor’s schemes and bringing home girls. It’s all really gross and terrible. She convinces Scott that they need to kill her father, because she’s sure he’s going to write her out of his will, so they try a “test run,” which idiot Scott believes is actually a test, and it does actually work, but Victor tried to get outside to Carmelita before he expired, and he may or may not have passed information along to her. She refuses to tell (and Scott has sex with her because of course he does), so Elise decides she needs to go as well, so there’s this awful sequence of Elise beating the poor woman with a fireplace poker and her collarbone jutting out and my entire body hurts just thinking about it. Anyway, they bury her in the sand and head off into the sunset...except they’re both feeling pretty guilty. Meanwhile, Victor has indeed left them everything, but Elise is convinced that someone is going to find Carmelita’s body, so she talks Scott into going back and digging her up...and he realizes at the last second that someone (Elise’s no longer jailed brother) moved the body and he’s actually digging his own grave. And then he gets shot and bleeds out on the beach. Scene (hide spoiler)] The problem is that ALL of that under the cut happens in the last 40 or so pages. It’s not a long book, just barely cracking the 200 mark, so I’m not sure why the pacing has to be so wonky. And in spite of some 11th hour flashbacks to happier (ish) times, I was never sure what brought Scott and Elise together in the first place. Yes, we’re seeing them at what is clearly the end of their marriage, but I couldn’t figure out why they got together (and stayed that way) at all.
It’s interesting that the ratings here are pretty low...clearly I’m not the only one who had some issues with this book! It’s partially the pacing, but the characters just don’t have any depth. It’s not that they aren’t likeable (they aren’t), but there just isn’t anything to them. Scott is almost like a cipher, just investigating this mystery that doesn’t really have anything to do with him, and if I had to hear one more time about him photographing Asian brides under that tree with the yellow leaves, I was going to lose my mind! And Elise is almost completely flat until the very end, when suddenly she has all of these terrible layers that haven’t been hinted at previously. The twists themselves are interesting, but they happen too quickly and too late in the game to have much impact. This isn’t a book about the secrets running under a marriage, it’s a book about two boring, terrible people who make ridiculous destructive choices out of boredom. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Nope. Can't do it. I made it to around the 45% mark when I realized I was just bored. It's like an amalgamation of so many different dystopia/fantasyNope. Can't do it. I made it to around the 45% mark when I realized I was just bored. It's like an amalgamation of so many different dystopia/fantasy novels...as though the author just threw a bunch of plot points at the wall to see what might stick. This outing is all about finding other "special" people like Mare, with magical not-Red, not-Silver blood and abilities...not unlike those special divergent people. And while the rainbow caste system of the Red Rising trilogy was a shade too complicated, this two-caste system also doesn't make much sense, especially once we start hearing about different gangs and other kingdoms...I have zero sense of the scope of this world. A map would really help.
Speaking of Red Rising, although by the end I realized that Darrow was quite possibly the least interesting character, the supporting cast more than made up for him (I still maintain he's awfully weepy and whiny for an allegedly indestructible warlord, and I think the whole series would have been stronger if Brown had written it in rotating 3rd person instead of sticking us in Darrow's head the whole time). Here, Mare is deathly dull, and the supporting cast are all basically interchangeable. There's no Sevro spouting off quips, no Mustang putting Mare in her place, no Roque working against her behind the scenes, no Cassius to square off with...just these bland, boring revolutionaries and boring prince Cal (who is supposed to be how old? 20? But he's fought all kinds of battles and traveled all over the world?). I'm not interested in what happens to any of these people.
Finished this in the car on the way to work. I needed a non-fiction book about science for this year's Read Harder challenge, and this was the only otFinished this in the car on the way to work. I needed a non-fiction book about science for this year's Read Harder challenge, and this was the only other Mary Roach book my library had on audio (I read Packing for Mars over the summer). I've decided audio is my preferred medium for non-fiction, and unless the book is super-long, my drive to and from work is just about perfect to finish a book within the 2-week lending period.
For a book with a mouth on the cover, a large percentage of this book is about poop. Granted, I have never read an author with a greater penchant for scatological humor than Mary Roach. With the possible exception of my father, there is no one who will go to greater lengths for a poop joke. I had a tough time with several of the chapters, because we just kept traveling farther and farther down the digestive tract! As always, there are lots of fascinating facts here -- how much of a role smell plays in taste, why we love crunchy food (and the appeal of chewing), the eating habits of dogs and cats... and then there's just SO MUCH about poop. I'm so glad I know that fecal transplants are a thing now! That was in no way disturbing.
I also really did not care for the narrator. Audiobooks really live and die on the strength of their readers. I tried to re-read The Diviners on audio and I had to quit after less than a chapter because the narrator made me want to scream. This wasn't quite as bad, but part of the problem was that she sounded a great deal younger than Roach, so it was a weird disconnect. Also, she did that thing where you effect a super-thick accent to pronounce only certain words. Like when chefs try to be fancy pronouncing mozzarella. She puts on different voices for all of the scientists and experts Roach talks to, and that also bugged. This isn't a narrative -- I can fully appreciate the information without you effecting a Southern accent because the guy happens to be from Memphis. It was more mildly irritating than outright infuriating, but it definitely hampered my enjoyment a bit.
I think Stiff will remain my favorite of Roach's collections, although I'm excited to read Grunt when it comes out this summer!...more
This was a fun beach read that I plowed through in a single day (not quite a single sitting, but it was close!). I've recently fallen in love with theThis was a fun beach read that I plowed through in a single day (not quite a single sitting, but it was close!). I've recently fallen in love with the show -- which I never watched in its original run -- and I knew I had to have this book for vacation. As a friend of mine commented, it's definitely not great literature, but it's fast and entertaining and perfect for a lazy day in the sun.
There's a strange quality to the writing that irked me... I can't quite put my finger on how to describe it. It's not like fan fiction; Rob Thomas is one of the creators of the show, and the plot seems to pick where the movie ended? (I've only seen the first season so far) So it's building on to that pre-existing world, but at the same time, you can't assume that everyone who reads the book will have watched all three seasons and the movie. But also also, you don't want to completely ruin the major plot points for a person who hasn't watched the show. I binged the last 6 episodes of season 1 in a rush because I wanted to find out who killed Lilly Kane and I figured it'd come up in the book somehow. It doesn't. There's this weirdly clunky quality to the exposition when any character is introduced. Like...I know who Wallace is! I don't need an awkward back story. Maybe it's less clunky if you don't know who any of these people are? But if that's the case then why would you want to read this book? I'm putting way too much thought into this.
In sum: it's fun, and will be staying in Gulf Shores as part of the renters' library! ...more
Wow. This was powerful. I'd love to write a real review, but I'm honestly not sure I can find the words.
I’m not sure I can write a true review of thiWow. This was powerful. I'd love to write a real review, but I'm honestly not sure I can find the words.
I’m not sure I can write a true review of this, but here goes my attempt! I think Speak is probably the closest comparison (and that’s what I will probably compare it to when I recommend it to students in the future), but this is a very different story. Every assault is different, and the way the victim deals with that assault is different. Melinda had one experience....Hermione has another. This is one story, about one experience and the ways in which Hermione -- and those around her -- deal with the fallout.
Hermione is a cheerleader, basically one of the queen bees, and I was glad that although I got a weird Megan Abbott-ish frenemy vibe at the beginning, she and her best friend Polly truly are as close as can be. Unlike Melinda, who turns into a pariah at school following her assault (because she broke up the party of the year...and if I remember correctly, she never really told anyone about what happened until quite a bit after the fact), Hermione’s friends rally around her. Polly in particular. Johnston says in the author’s note that it was important to her that Hermione have a strong support system in this story, even though not all survivors are as lucky. But, I like that she goes on to say that everyone has a Polly -- they just may not realize it yet. Polly is the best; she’s fiercely loyal and determined and willing to spit nails when it comes to defending her best friend. Yet she also has real fears and insecurities about her own life.
One of the unique (unfortunate) aspects of Hermione’s attack is that, since she was drugged, and woke up after the fact, she has no memory of the actual rape -- including who could have done it. In a way, that makes it easier for her to move on quickly, because as she says, it’s as if it happened to someone else. But at the same time, there’s a whole world of potential, unknown triggers just waiting to send her back to the night of her attack. And usually they come without warning -- a smell, a song, being in a crowd...it could make a person want to stay in the house all the time for fear of being accidentally transported back to that awful time. But Hermione soldiers on -- she wants to move past it, she hates being seen as a victim. It’s also interesting that Hermione’s assault allowed other people: the officer who takes her statement, Polly, her other friends on the squad -- to rise up and become different, better versions of themselves. It’s hard for her to see the silver lining through the anger that this had to happen at all.
Here's the quote, which I had to flag because it made me stop and tear up: I wonder how I've known Reverend Rob all my life and never realized he was a superhero. I keep bringing out the best in people, it seems. Officer Plummer, Tig, Dion, heck, even Polly. It's very annoying. A stupid silver lining whose cloud I never wanted to see in the first place. I hope it's not supposed to make me feel better. Honestly, sometimes it's all I can do not to turn into a ball of rage about it. I liked it better when I built people up by cheering for them. That way is predictable and good exercise and fun. This way costs too much, and there's nothing in it for me. I miss the days when I was someone people could ignore or discount, and still feel good about themselves.
Ultimately, this story is about friendship and family and support. I was so glad it didn’t turn into some whodunnit mystery about finding her rapist (view spoiler)[ although she does, at the very end, and it does end up being satisfying, in a way (hide spoiler)]. The friendship between Hermione and Polly is probably the best part of the novel -- it just felt so real. I also like that Johnston doesn't shy away from humor; Hermione remains pretty sarcastic, and often wonders in her inner monologue if a joke would be inappropriate. I swear I read somewhere that this is a retelling of The Winter’s Tale, but beyond the fact that the main character is named Hermione Winter... I’m not sure there’s much resemblance (also, given that most of the pivotal events here happen at a cheerleading camp, it’s probably a loose interpretation at best). I love that Johnston addresses the elephant in the room right away -- Hermione thinks that the officer taking her statement must be either a Harry Potter nerd (like her dad) or a classics enthusiast (like her mom) to pronounce her name correctly on the first try. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
When I read The Walls Around Us, I noted that I don't have a great grasp of what magical realism truly looks like, but that book felt like it. My grasWhen I read The Walls Around Us, I noted that I don't have a great grasp of what magical realism truly looks like, but that book felt like it. My grasp may be no stronger, but I'm pretty sure this book falls even more assuredly into that category. And I'm not sure how I feel about it. ...more
Damn, I've picked some great books this month! This is a great, twisty mystery. It’s a little Megan Abbott, a little Gillian Flynn, a little Tana FrenDamn, I've picked some great books this month! This is a great, twisty mystery. It’s a little Megan Abbott, a little Gillian Flynn, a little Tana French...I’m not entirely convinced we needed to hear quite so much from the detectives (as it turned out, everything happened in spite of them, not really because of anything they...detected). But the rotating perspective and the fluid timeline, weaving back and forth between 2010 and 1980, all added up to a story that kept me guessing. Kind of like Dark Places, just when I thought I had everything figured out, everything changed again.
In 1980, Kelly Michelle Lund allegedly shot and killed director John McFadden. She spent nearly 25 years in prison, but was eventually released. Five years after that, legendary actor Sterling Marshall is shot and killed in nearly the same manner as McFadden. And Marshall just happens to be Kelly’s father-in-law. Suspicion immediately falls on the former murderess, causing Kelly to reexamine her past and the path that led to McFadden’s death 30 years earlier. It’s a wild ride where you suspect basically everyone of both murders, but (view spoiler)[in the end, it does end up being the simplest explanation, unlike the convoluted, impossible to guess, resolution of Dark Places (hide spoiler)]. It’s great, though. The twists all feel genuine, not just shock for shock’s sake, and the characters are unlikably fascinating. There are dead twin sisters and hidden love children and mistaken identities and secret identities and last minute game-changing gunshots... it’s fun!
I did find the true crime aspect of Kelly’s first crime fascinating -- she became something of a media sensation, kind of like Amanda Knox or Casey Anthony, for being seemingly remorseless in the face of her crime. It’s also eerily reminiscent of Making a Murderer -- being jailed for a crime you didn’t commit, only to be accused of a nearly identical crime just when you think you’re safe. Of course, the nice thing about fiction is that it allows the opportunity for a tidy(ish) resolution. We’ll never know the truth about Steve Avery, but thankfully, by the end of the novel, we know the truth about Kelly Lund.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more