Before And After

17621780 by
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

When I finished LIE STILL, I realized how absolutely ignorant I was about rape and women and the lingering effects of the horrific ordeal that no amount of washing or scrubbing or therapy or counseling or friends and familial support can ever hope to take away. And that for the rest of Emily Page’s life she will remember vivid details of the assault and Pierce Martin like he was the grim reaper sent down just for her: the empty Domino’s pizza box, the cloying odor of his shampoo, her final thought before he entered her—that he’s not going to marry her—the fingernail that raked her leg and the scar it left behind, and the sting of the alcohol, as she attempted to clean up the last remnants of him. And that when he entered her a part of her soul tore away, and that now her life is divided into two periods: before and after.

Even though Pierce is an asshole, a controlling, abusive, manipulative, done-this-sort-of-thing-before asshole, who had planned the violation for weeks and probably fantasized about it for even longer than that, Emily still thinks the rape, in this case date rape, was her fault. Her humiliation and guilt clings to her like a virus. Even though it wasn’t her fault, she feels culpable in the horrific ordeal, flashing her virginity around like it somehow made her better. This novel refers to date rape as “the last frontier of crime,” because the victims look and feel guilty, while the rapist feels pleased because he painted the whole picture himself. I had no idea rape victims were viewed this way, and it saddens me deeply to realize this is the case. I only hope our society can somehow figure out a way to right this horrible wrong.

This novel shows Texas like it was truly meant to be shown with fake mansions the size of convention centers, where fake women and fake breasts and fake tans loom larger than the Georgia sun. Where a middle-aged former beauty queen packs pistols and assault rifles in the back of her Lexus and shoots out the zero of interstate signs at 65 MPH. Where the twists and turns prove more complicated than Texas’s geographical landscape and interstate highways and where high school never seems to end. And where Caroline Warwick has more secrets and more enemies than one would like to admit.

I’d like to end with the “legitimate rape” legacy left behind by a US representative that Julia Heaberlin brings up in her Author’s Note. She takes the higher ground by not mentioning this particular bastard by name, but I believe he should be called out once again for his comment. Representative Todd Akin said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” That shows ignorance on so many levels, and it scares the shit out of me that he was actually running our country for six terms. Akin didn’t get reelected in 2012, and rightfully so.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Needed An Adrenaline Injection

10169662 by
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

While this novel was good—some may even call it great—I couldn’t help but feel like this was a repeat performance of Still Missing. Had I not just read Ms. Stevens’s debut novel a couple months prior, I might have developed an entirely different opinion on the matter. The first time out the unique structure captured my attention and had me flipping pages faster than a sugar addict working his way through a dozen doughnuts, but this time the polish had worn off, and while I still devoured NEVER KNOWING, I flipped the pages with less enthusiasm.

The first half of the story, while certainly good, needed an adrenaline injection. Sure, the character and story development proved entertaining, but this is supposed to be a thriller. And when it comes to page-turners, I want to dangle on the edge of a cliff by my fingernails while a dog is nipping at the tips and a psycho serial killer points a revolver at my shaking corpse. The suspense and adrenaline came, but by then I had already pondered the existence of the universe more than once.

Sara Gallagher, though, proved to be an intriguing character, and one I understood a bit too well. Taking the world’s problems on her shoulders, she blames herself for anything remiss, prefers knowledge to a lack of awareness, and shoulders more problems than are hers to bear. Yeah, she may swallow the occasional white pill, but she has migraines, sister, along with a wedding to plan and a somewhat absentee fiancé who likes to play in the woods.

Even her relationships reminded me of my own. She had her first love Derek where she was head over heels and enamored and lost herself and ended up in what was ultimately an unhealthy relationship before she found Evan, her true love. This scenario resembled a bit too uncannily what I had faced before. At the time I had no real comparison for relationships and love and clinging to someone so tightly and losing myself so completely that I almost became two different people: one when I was with her and one when I wasn’t. Once I was in, though, I ended up so far inside the threshold there was no easy way to get out, without one of us clinging to that cliff, so I did what made sense at the time: I expunged myself from the situation.

Not being able to fix that relationship or somehow make it work, despite analyzing it from every angle, bothered me a whole hell of a lot more than what my ex thought of me. In fact, I still feel like I failed the universe somehow. But I’ve come to terms with my problems without the aid of prescription medication just as I’ve come to terms with my misgivings of this novel.

Make The Crazy Stop

17671775Mother, Mother: A Novel by Koren Zailckas
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

I’d like to nominate Douglas and Josephine Hurst for parents of the year. He’s an absentee father who’s doing a real fine job of drinking himself to death, while she’s a narcissistic mother who’d like to split ends with her family and the entire populace at large. If ever there was a case for the Emancipation Proclamation, the Hurst parents are the spitting image of what honest Abe had in mind, because I’d like to emancipate myself from this particular situation, and I only had to deal with them for a few hours. If I had to deal with them for much longer, I’d lock myself in a loony bin, devour all the red, yellow, green, blue, pink, and white pills I could find and then secure myself to a bed covered in leather straps, as I wait for the needle injection.

Then there were Violet and William Hurst and Sara-pist, who may, or may not, have been a reject therapist. Violet proved the more likeable of the two, a strong enough character to actually take on Josie the Soci, even if she did have to see more than a therapist to get her house in order and control the crazy. William, on the other hand, might as well have been a mini-Josephine, who had more than a few social issues, and what he may have often lacked in empathy, he made up for in the desolation of anyone who went against his mother.

If I could have figured out a way to make the crazy stop, I would have, because it was all fucking nuts with a side of scary, creepy, and fubar mixed into this spider’s web. The Addams Family appeared normal enough next to this freak show that probably needed its own Big top, cotton candy dispenser, and caramel apple maker. But there were no sweets to be had here, only lint and pocket knives.

The plot twists could have been a bit more twisted, as I had more than a strong suspicion on the final outcome of this tale about halfway through, but like a five-car pileup on the interstate in the middle of rush hour, I couldn’t look away, nor did I really want to. So if you’re looking for a character study in evil, along with a side dose in depth, despair, and human wreckage, you just might find yourself enjoying this tale. Although sleeping with a nightlight for your first night or two might not be such a bad idea either, if you have a weak stomach.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Unreliable Narrator

10323019Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

Christine proves rather reliable in her unreliability as a narrator. But it’s not exactly breaking character since she can’t remember shit. I’ve had traumatic experiences in my life, and I can’t remember that particular time period. My mind is blank. It’s like that particular event didn’t happen, except I remember the before and the after and there’s a crumpled car to prove to me that I’m not just making shit up in my head. And if your entire world revolves around your husband Ben and you suddenly see three words in your diary—DON’T TRUST BEN—I can understand how that might be terrifying and traumatic for you. I’d equate it to building a million dollar mansion on quicksand.

The structure worked for me. It added suspense. Had BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP been structured any other way, it would have crumbled in on itself like an origami bird. But I didn’t like the ending. It felt a bit like cheating to me. *BEGIN SPOILER* Christine suddenly has her memory back or large chunks of it at least, because the supposed traumatic event is over, and Mike has been expunged from existence. It seemed a tad convenient for me. S.J. Watson may, or may not, have consumed an illegal substance during this period, and there’s a decent chance he may have inhaled. *END SPOILER*

But otherwise the story worked. It had a different feel to it, and I was turned on enough to want to know what happened, but I did have a sinking suspicion I had the ending figured out before it arrived.

For those of you who don’t like tangents, you’ll probably want to skip right on over this part. Let’s get one thing straight: There are no original plotlines. The well of lost plots has been used up, drying faster than the Nevada desert. Sure, it’s easy enough to make the argument that this story is similar to Memento, but so what? We might as well take every romance and mystery off the shelves…and sit around and wait for someone to come up with something “original.” I’ll save you the suspense: You probably have a better chance of meeting a little green alien, having him tickle your forehead, and then receiving a wet smack to the lips. Guess what? The Fast & The Furious is essentially the same as Point Break, only there’re cars and car racing instead of surfing. And the director of The Fast & The Furious is in preproduction on a remake of Point Break. You’re welcome.

But let’s get to the good news: Even without an endless number of plots, there are an endless number of ideas and experiences and opportunities and characters that writers can bring to the table, bringing an essential “uniqueness” to the creative drawing board. The Fast & The Furious feels different from Point Break because the characters are different. End tangent.