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Damage Done by Amanda Panitch

Damage Done is right. Damage to my time and my reading sensibilities and my respect for YA literature. I have got to stop picking books from generic lists of ‘awesome books’. But when I saw Damage Done on one of these lists, I was immediately attracted to the simple cover and the idea of a Gone Girl style YA book. And there’s something about a book on a subject as gutwrenching as school shootings that’s meant to be read by an audience that is the age of the typical victims that’s intriguing. A book that challenges our treatment, not of the perpetrators of such crimes but of the people related to them. That shows how those people treat themselves. How we are coloured by the actions of the people in our inner circle. That’s the book I wanted to read. Panitch promises the story of Julia Vass in the aftermath of her twin brother’s mass shooting at their high school. A shooting in which she, and he, were the only survivors. But what we get is a mildly ridiculous love story where the shooting feels a like little more than a plot device.

Julia is now Lucy Black. In a new town, with a new name, and a new past. Her family relocated to escape the nightmare of media and threats that became their lives after Ryan killed eleven students. They run from the blame. Julia/Lucy’s parents were easily the most interesting part of the novel. Their reactions to the shooting were heartbreaking. Even though we don’t see them often, we see the impact of their withdrawal. The Blacks have essentially cut off all interactions with their daughter. They refuse to talk about Ryan at all. All pictures and memories have been removed from the house, left behind when they moved. Lucy has only one picture left. Hidden in the back of a drawer away from her mother’s cleaning hands. Mrs. Black has irised her life into cleaning. All she does is scrub. Bleach and scrub. A physical manifestation of her need to remove the memories of her child. Mr. Black is mostly absent. He allows his work to take him away from his wife and daughter. And he refuses, absolutely refuses, to allow Ryan’s name in the house. Any reference to their life as the Vasses is met with an immediate shut down. At least it is when Lucy wants to talk about their past.

Turns out (and from here you continue at your own peril) there’s been more Ryan discussion happening than Julia/Lucy thought. Ryan’s been out of his coma almost since he went into it. He’s awake. He’s semi-healthy. He’s not talking to anyone except Spence – his former psychologist. Julia’s parents know. They’ve made a conscious decision not to tell her. If you haven’t predicted the upcoming twist by the time this information appears, it seems a little cruel, but also makes sense. Why would they tell her that her twin is awake when she’s never going to be allowed to see him? They’re protecting her from more pain. If they keep his condition quiet, they save their family more pain. But there’s more to their silence than initially thought. Julia isn’t the girl she’s led us to believe she is. Continue reading

Lee

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee (@staceyleeauthor)

There are certain books – approximately twelve a year – that I read because I have to. They’re book club books. I don’t get to choose. Well, untrue, I chose not to read a couple last year because – why punish myself with bad books. Reading is supposed to be fun. When I saw Under a Painted Sky was the first book for 2016, I had no reaction. I’d never heard of it. I was unaware of the hype. I didn’t read the blurb. I just grabbed the audiobook and got started. This is not my type of book. Nope. I dislike historical fiction. I dislike Westerns. I would never have picked this book up on my own. I would have picked it up based on the cover, read the blurb, put it back down, and never thought about it again. Sometimes, my preferences steer me wrong. This book is damn entertaining.

Not only do we get the story of two girls bonding in friendship over shared trauma, but also one of forced exploration of self. Samantha and Annamae have both been ripped from their families and are now facing a potential life of prostitution. Annamae is already living in the whorehouse when Samantha is brought in, but she sees opportunity in Samantha’s desperation and leads them on their escape. Continue reading

ttt

Top Ten Tuesday – More TBR Books

Does the list of books to read ever stop growing? Nope.

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The Undertaker’s Daughter by Kate Mayfield

After Kate Mayfield was born, she was taken directly to a funeral home. Her father was an undertaker, and for thirteen years the family resided in a place nearly synonymous with death. A place where the living and the dead entered their house like a vapor. The place where Kate would spend the entirety of her childhood. In a memoir that reads like a Harper Lee novel, Mayfield draws the reader into a world of Southern mystique and ghosts. 
Kate’s father set up shop in a small town where he was one of two white morticians during the turbulent 1960s. Jubilee, Kentucky, was a segregated, god-fearing community where no one kept secrets, except the ones they were buried with. By opening a funeral home, Kate’s father also opened the door to family feuds, fetishes, and victims of accidents, murder, and suicide. The family saw it all. They also saw the quiet ruin of Kate’s father, who hid alcoholism and infidelity behind a cool, charismatic exterior. As Mayfield grows from trusting child to rebellious teen, she begins to find the enforced hush of the funeral home oppressive, and longs for the day she can escape the confines of her small town.

Continue reading

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday -Too Many Books, Not Enough Time

Today’s post is about books I meant to get around to reading in 2015. Technically, it’s supposed to be books published in 2015, but I don’t organize my reading that way. Instead, I’ll just talk about books I really wanted to read but didn’t. I’m slowly rectifying this since I’m in the middle of reading the first two on the list.

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Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg. Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible – and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality. With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them. Continue reading