The Secret Place, Tana French's brilliant fifth book.
"The photo shows a boy who was murdered a year ago. The caption says, 'I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM'. Detective Stephen Moran hasn't seen Holly Mackey since she was a nine-year-old witness to the events of Faithful Place. Now she's sixteen and she's shown up outside his squad room, with a photograph and a story.
Even in her exclusive boarding school, in the graceful golden world that Stephen has always longed for, bad things happen and people have secrets. The previous year, Christopher Harper, from the neighbouring boys' school, was found murdered on the grounds. And today, in the Secret Place - the school noticeboard where girls can pin up their secrets anonymously - Holly found the card.
Solving this case could take Stephen onto the Murder squad. But to get it solved, he will have to work with Detective Antoinette Conway - tough, prickly, an outsider, everything Stephen doesn't want in a partner. And he will have to find a way into the strange, charged, mysterious world that Holly and her three closest friends inhabit and disentangle the truth from their knot of secrets, even as he starts to suspect that the truth might be something he doesn't want to hear."Sounds good enough, right? Like Faithful Place (the other Holly story), this one is less about the mystery and more about the relationships between the characters. It made my heart break, and more than once, at how HARD it was to be a teenager, and how much harder it must be in this day and age, with phones. Ugh. I actually bought this, rather than wait for the library (I really am a HUGE Tana French fanatic!) and I highlighted so many passages in the kindle that literally brought tears to my eyes. Or just made me wince with how awful it was. I mean, those people that say high school was the best time of their lives? CRACK HEADS. If you offered me cash money to go back there, I would tell you to go fuck yourself.
Mildly spoilerish alert...
In all four of her previous books (HOW HAVE I NOT REVIEWED BROKEN HARBOUR?!?!?) the cops are the center, in this one, every other chapter is told from the girls' points of views, which I didn't love, but can see it was necessary. There's a few elements of The Craft (remember that movie?) that don't actually go anywhere or get any sort of resolution, and to be honest, that cut my review down seriously. I don't mind fantasy elements, but only in a fantasy book, if that makes sense. Ocean at the End of the Lane? Yes please. A procedural crime drama set firmly in our own canon universe? No thank you.
Also in all four of her previous books (I can't really call this a 'series' because they're so loosely connected- you can read them in any order, seriously, and not be confused. Although I'd read In the Woods before The Likeness. And I might just skip The Likeness actually) the cops sort of fall apart and ruin their careers and actually their lives. Adam, Cassie, Frank (although I guess not really...) and then Scorch in Broken Harbour (holy SHIT) but finally FINALLY these two? These two make it. They don't set their relationship on fire, and they don't ruin their careers. For the most part. I was SO happy about that. It's hard to explain, unless you've read the others and watched them throw their lives in the toilet.
Anyway. Four stars, three and a half when I'm feeling particularly moody about the witchcraft line. For once, I nailed the killer right from the get go. I really did!!! Ask Holly Hudson. True, I changed my mind ONCE, but I'm still calling it- I got it right. For the first time in a Tana French book!!!
Night Film by Marisha Pessl.
"Cult horror director Stanislas Cordova hasn't been seen in public since 1971. To his fans he is an enigma. To journalist Scott McGrath he is the enemy. To Ashley he was a father.
On a damp October night the young, beautiful Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Her suicide appears to be the latest tragedy to hit a severely cursed dynasty.
For McGrath, another death connected the legendary director seems more than coincidence. Driven by revenge, curiosity and a need for the truth, he finds himself pulled into a hypnotic, disorientating world, where almost everyone seems afraid.
The last time McGrath got close to exposing Cordova, he lost his marriage and his career. This time he could lose his grip on reality."
I don't remember how this ended up on my list, but they had it, so I grabbed it with nine other books for the Drive. I was ambitious ;) I tore through it, reading over a hundred pages a day (it's a long one) and I LOVED the short choppy writing style and her extreme use of italics. She wrote EXACTLY like I think, so that was awesome.
That being said, I felt like the ending was stupid. It all sort of ended up being a huge cop out and I wished I hadn't wasted my time. I know it's supposed to be the journey, not the destination...but the destination was so lame that it sort of ruined the journey. For me. Everyone else apparently loved it. I have a hard time imagining a movie so brutal that someone would pass out from horror, but then again, I don't watch horror movies, so who knows.
I just checked my Goodreads and I gave it four stars (rounded up from 3.5 bc a five star scale is just about useless, we need ten!!!) but that's bullshit. Two months later, I'll give it two, if I'm in a generous mood. The writing style is FANTASTIC. But that cop out ending? Forget it.
Ohhhh, The Rosie Project. I'm sure you've heard of this, it's like The Next Buzzy Book in SAHM Land, but just in case, here's the back of the book: "Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.
Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don's Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper."
It was the perfect light read. Well written, hilarious, charming, engaging....it was great. Four stars. It didn't make me think or change my life, but it was just a NICE book. Made me feel good. My goodreads review just made me giggle when I looked it up, I type these in the middle of the night as soon as I finish a book: Quick easy fun read. Not too sappy. Predictable but still completely delightful. Four stars. And I love how Don uses exclamation points! Disclaimer: I may be slightly biased as, although I don't have any sort of diagnosis on the autism spectrum, I share a LOT of traits with Don.
I stand by my four stars too, which is rare for me. However, there's a sequel coming later this month and I can't see being overly excited about that. I mean, it was good, but it was very specific. And the second one will almost surely be EXACTLY the same, Sheldon Cooper Got Married and Now He's Going to Have a Baby. Loved it the first time, but I can't imagine reading another version, if that makes sense.
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton. "1961: On a sweltering summer's day, while her family picnics by the stream on their Suffolk farm, sixteen-year-old Laurel hides out in her childhood tree house dreaming of a boy called Billy, a move to London, and the bright future she can't wait to seize. But before the idyllic afternoon is over, Laurel will have witnessed a shocking crime that changes everything.
2011: Now a much-loved actress, Laurel finds herself overwhelmed by shades of the past. Haunted by memories, and the mystery of what she saw that day, she returns to her family home and begins to piece together a secret history. A tale of three strangers from vastly different worlds - Dorothy, Vivien and Jimmy - who are brought together by chance in wartime London and whose lives become fiercely and fatefully entwined.
Shifting between the 1930s, the 1960s and the present, The Secret Keeper is a spellbinding story of mysteries and secrets, murder and enduring love."
I thought this book was way too long, but I can't see anything that she could have cut out. If that makes sense. I gave it three stars. That sounds so harsh!! But I stick by it. The ending was so beautiful, it made me cry. It was SO GOOD. But I just...gave it three stars. It wasn't my fave. I kept comparing it to Life After Life, even though it was NOTHING like it, other than the Blitz, and so it came up short. Probably unfair, but I can't help it. I didn't really like Laurel, or Dolly in the flashbacks, so that made it hard to get too invested. But the ending ya'll. It's so good!! I'd figured it out a little bit ahead of time, but it was still sort of surprising to see her write it out. And so beautiful. Sigh.
Anyone read anything good lately? I've got The Expats, the last of my nine that I took on vacay, then I have no idea what to dive into next.