Shirley Marr's Reviews > Love Notes From Vinegar House

Love Notes From Vinegar House by Karen Tayleur
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's review
Mar 20, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: aussie-ya

Love Notes from Vinegar House is a book I just HAD to read because of:

a) The title. This has to be one of the oddest titles of the year. And I'm not the only one in thinking so because it's ended up on the Goodread's list Clever, Curious and Cringeworthy Book Titles of 2012, along with others such as Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous, Thou Shalt Not Road Trip and my personal favourite - A Breath of Eyre (Unbound, #1).

b) The promo that likens it to "Rebecca meets Gossip Girl" ... Is this ... a good thing?

c) The tagline of "There are some things you should know about me if we are going to be friends. Like I don't believe in ghosts." This doesn't really make any sense out of context. This is a horror novel right? So I reckon a much scarier opener would be "There are some things you should know about me if we are going to be friends. Like I'm a fan of Kyle Sandilands"*

Which is a shame because if you just look past all those above things, I think Love Notes from Vinegar House is a great contemporary novel, with a strong Aussie flavour and a completely different take on the "paranormal" theme.

Freya Jackson Kramer has been exiled to spend her school holidays at dreaded Grandmother "Vinegar's" creepy old internet-less mansion on the coast and she finds herself more than happy to go after committing a "Facebook indiscretion". Unfortunately her least favourite cousin Rumer is there, along with the boy that Rumer used to date and whom Freya has loved forever.

I'm a fan of the novel Rebecca and I really love how this is a modern interpretation, set in a small town of one of Australia's beautiful and desolate coastlines and played out as a teenage melodrama instead - a three-way power struggle buoyed by old family secrets and where old memories clash with the present day. I like the little nods - the little beach that is off limits. The grumpy and possibly evil housekeeper.

To compliment the Gothic undercurrent, the writing is very modern and clean, with the type of heroine I love the most. I never quote in my reviews (they're capable of being waaay too long without the help of quotes, thank you), but in this instance I will, because Freya is just so strange, tongue-in-cheek, smart and dark:

"Once, at Grandma's house, I was given the role of wild dog suffering from rabies. Not one of my finest moments. I figured if I got too tired of the game I could bite Rumer on the leg and blame it on losing myself in the character. I never got a chance to bite Rumer, though, because she tied me to a tree then went off and forgot about me."

I came into the story expecting a ghost story and my understanding was that I was going to get freaked out pretty much straight away. So it perplexed me that nothing overtly creepy actually happened until one-third into the novel and I found myself questioning this novel being billed so heavily as a "ghost story".

Having read and then had time to contemplate this: I don't feel cheated. It's just gotten me to re-evaluate what I believed a "ghost story" should be, probably because I am heavily stuck with the notion of "around the campfire with a torch" sort of ghost story. Rather than being a Monster of the Week, it's more a deceptive psychological arc that slowly sees inner demons manifesting themselves into real life. Or do they? It ultimately loops back to the opening sentence where Freya insists she does not believe in ghosts. And I like this. And I can see the power in the statement, but only in HINDSIGHT.

I've since returned to and dissected the novel and I can the fine little things I missed the first time - like the parallel between the children's games of Murder in the Dark with the little strips of paper with murderer written on them that Freya and her cousin used to play - and the Love Notes that start showing up in real life, which Freya dismisses as new teenagers games.

It may not be one of those novels that grabbed me immediately, but I am so impressed by its beauty and intricacies in hindsight that I think this novel will become one of those deeply personal taste favourites for 2012. I can see myself liking it more with a second or even third read, which is actually the joy of this "style" of book.

I only hope that the title etc doesn't put people off cos I think this is a very thought-provoking, challenging and deceptively complex book.

If this were Master Chef and you are looking for a modern take on an old classic, which might have become stodgy and you want something new and different, then bite into this. It doesn't taste "vinegary" at all :)

*Sad but True fact. Sorry, but I've followed King Kyle since the "Idol days" and I can't stop now.

This review also appears on my blog Books on Marrs here.


Meanwhile, earlier on the ranch...

I love Karen Tayleur and I love a ghost story.

Rebecca meets Gossip Girl? I'm not exactly sure how this works... but I'm intrigued to find out.
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08/23/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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Michael Earp Personally I'm not sure if Rebecca meets Gossip Girl is the best description... there are elements of both, but it's hardly limited to what you would think when you think of those... :)

message 2: by Shirley (last edited Mar 20, 2012 06:40PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Shirley Marr Thanks Michael! The image of Maxim de Chuck Bass was kinda freaking me out... but I really look forward to reading it. You've read it right? I'm jealous. Whose arm do I have to bend to get a copy?

Michael Earp The benefits of working for the publisher :) I had to read to sell! I'm sure you'll be able to read it soon!

Shirley Marr I totally wish I had your job!

Michael Earp And I totally wish I had yours! ;)

Shirley Marr Well, we can both hope for a Freaky Friday tomorrow then! ;)

message 7: by Emily (new)

Emily Kyle? Say it isn't so Shirley!

I'd never heard of this book til now. Uber curious. Lovely review, as always!

message 8: by Zoë (new) - added it

Zoë Haha Kyle Sandilands. Found it funny since I ahd just been watching Australia's Got Talent when I read this. This book sounds very interesting. I will definitely have to check it out.

Shirley Marr Thanks Emily, but I'm afraid it is so! I think I'm only one of two ppl who have heard of this book... strange!

I'm watching AGT too Zoe :)

message 10: by Nafiza (new) - added it

Nafiza I put it on my to-read list because of the title. But it's tamer than "Silhouette of a Sparrow," which is, if I'm not wrong, another YA novel.

Shirley Marr "Silhouette of a Sparrow" is a really strange, but pretty title! Thanks Nafiza, I went to search for it and it looks quite interesting :)

message 12: by Nafiza (new) - added it

Nafiza No problem!

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