BETTY by Tiffany McDaniel

A lyrical novel about a young girl uncovering horrific truths about her own family in the rolling hills of the Appalachians.

BETTY is a novel that carries an emotional impact, telling the story of Betty’s upbringing in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Born to a Cherokee father and white mother, Betty is the sixth of eight children growing up in a world of poverty and violence, both outside and, tragically, inside the home. In the midst of hardship emerges a resilient character who finds solace and an outlet in writing, recounting the horrors of her family’s past and present.

Inspired by the story of Tiffany McDaniel’s mother, BETTY is a personal and meaningful undertaking. It is a story of racism, abuse, poverty and amongst it all one of love and connection. This is not an easy read. It is devastating and absolutely heartbreaking. The beauty of the author’s writing is certainly there, for anyone who read The Summer that Melted Everything and fell in love with the writing style. But it is a much heavier read.

“I remember the fierce love and devotion as much as I remember the violence.” “our family tree grew with rotten, broken branches and fungus on the leaves.”

There are many wonderful aspects of this novel: the magic of storytelling, the fierce protagonist, and the folklore to list a few. The fact that it is filled with so much violence and trauma made it a difficult book to get through and one I was not eager to pick up. As a reader who does not at all gravitate towards heavy reads, it was especially challenging. I truly appreciate this novel and the very personal journey of writing a story based on family history.

*This novel was provided by the author via NetGalley for an honest review.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

“The rage is growing inside me, overtaking the shock and grief. I can feel it blossoming up behind my ribs. It’s almost a relief, how it obliterates every other feeling in its path.” 

An exclusive event. An isolated location. A creepy, foreboding atmosphere.

An island off the coast of Ireland is the perfect location for the wedding of a charismatic television celebrity and an ambitious magazine publisher. The guests consist of new acquaintances and old friends. As the wedding party assembles it becomes all too clear that there are layers to every relationship and a history of deep-seated resentment. The circumstances of the unsettling events of the wedding day are gradually revealed through flashbacks to past interactions, bringing to light past secrets.

If there is one genre in which I will pick up a much-hyped book every time, it is absolutely the mystery/thriller. In recent months, The Guest List has been that book that was a must-read in new releases, and needless to say I had to give it a read. As is the case with a lot of hyped books, for me, this one fell below expectations. Having read the author’s previous mystery novel, The Hunting Party, in anticipation of the new release, I feel that the format and characters just simply doesn’t click with me. While I have absolutely no issue with unlikeable characters in stories, many characters presented here are next level unlikeable and wholly unsympathetic. This is to the point that I was less intrigued by the story unfolding and more annoyed. The use of different perspectives does work well and I had no problem keeping track of characters. However, because I found many of the characters quite awful, I did not want to spend a lot of time on their perspective. The story does really take off around 250 pages in and becomes a true page-turner. I found myself completely immersed and eager to see how everything would unfold and wrap-up. The way the twists are revealed is especially well done, and although I did see one of them coming it still had an impact. And when it is all said and done, the ending was quite satisfying. I only wish it was as exciting getting there.

The Hercule Poirot Reading List: The Mysterious Affair at Styles

“Instinct is a marvelous thing. It can neither be explained nor ignored.” 

The first novel in the Hercule Poirot series, The Mysterious Affair at Styles marks the beginning of the adventures of the famous detective. In my reading of Agatha Christie novels over the years I remember picking up this first Poirot and eventually setting it aside, unfinished. I simply could not get into the story. So, when I decided to tackle the full Poirot reading list, The Mysterious Affair at Styles was one I was not particularly excited to get to. However, upon reading it, I was actually pleasantly surprised to find that I liked it well enough. It is certainly not a favourite and I will likely not recall much of it down the line, but it was enjoyable enough to read in the moment. So, what is The Mysterious Affair at Styles?

The mysterious affair is the very mysterious death of Emily Inglethorp, a wealthy lady murdered in her locked bedroom. How did the killer enter and leave without any notice? There is no shortage of possible suspects but the circumstances are mysterious indeed. Enter Hercule Poirot, in his debut as the brilliant and oh so memorable detective.

The mystery drew me in and I was genuinely curious to see not only who committed the crime, but also how it played out. Initially, I did find it tough to keep track of the characters and who was who. There are a lot of descriptions and the way things are presented was somewhat tedious to follow. The most surprising aspect of the novel was the character of Hastings, Poirot’s sidekick, if you will. I cannot express how irritating this character is. An aspiring detective who is so beyond dense and clueless it is quite baffling. The fact that he has a desire to be a detective and believes himself to be an observant person becomes laughable at a certain point. Having read many Poirot books over the years, I don’t remember ever having an issue with this character. I am interested to follow the evolution of Hastings as I make my way through all the books in the series. While The Mysterious Affair at Styles is not a particularly memorable story, I do feel it is a solid first novel in what became an intriguing set of mysteries and brought to life the unique character of detective Poirot.

Beach Read by Emily Henry

I did what any reasonable adult woman would do when confronted with her college rival turned next-door neighbor. I dove behind the nearest bookshelf.

Beach Read is told from the perspective of January Andrews, a bestselling romance author who is in the midst of a personal crisis that has impacted her desire to write another happy romance, but with a deadline looming she has very little choice in the matter. When she decides to spend the summer at a beach house left to her by her late father, she hopes that she can use this time to write while tying up some personal matters. Surprisingly, her next door neighbour is none other than Augustus Everett, an author of literary fiction and her former college classmate who was heavily critical of her writing. With both parties in the midst of writer’s block, they agree to a friendly competition that has them attempting to write in each other’s genre; January will write a story that is on the broody side, and Augustus will write a happy romance. As they spend time learning from one another the words begin to flow, and bonds slowly begin to form.

The premise of Beach Read appealed to me on so many levels. For one, I love a good contemporary romance novel, and when a story focuses on a pair of writers in a small town on the beach… well, that becomes a must-read book for the summer. As excited as I was to read this story, it ultimately left me underwhelmed and slightly disappointed.

Continue reading “Beach Read by Emily Henry”

The Hercule Poirot Reading List: Death in the Clouds

BLOG“Life can be very terrible,” he said. “One needs much courage… Also to live,” said Poirot, “one needs courage.”

Within the confines of a commercial passenger plane, a woman is found dead just prior to landing. It is clear that the death did not occur naturally, and a poisoned dart is quickly discovered pointing to a murder by unusual means. How did someone manage to shoot a poisoned dart without anyone noticing? Seated in seat No. 9 is none other than Hercule Poirot who made many observations during the flight, noticing the passengers and their movements, but completely unaware of the dead body of the woman seated behind him. There is a plane full of suspects, a bizarre method of murder, and an unlikelihood of any of the passengers being able to execute it. But there must be an explanation, and there is no one more equipped to find it than the great Hercule Poirot.

“There’s nothing for anyone to be afraid of if they’re only telling the truth,” said the Scotland Yard man austerely. Poirot looked at him pityingly. “In verity, I believe that you yourself honestly believe that.”

Death in the Clouds is another solid mystery in the Hercule Poirot series, and one I particularly enjoyed. Having a murder mystery focus on the events that occurred on a passenger plane during flight was intriguing and the course of events was well explained. This included the cast of characters/suspects along with their actions leading up to the discovery of the body. The story held my attention and piqued my curiosity, never feeling confusing or convoluted in its execution. There is a fatherly side to Poirot in this novel, and as it turns out he has a romantic soul, which is a nice element of his character. He also comes across as wise and astute in his evaluation of criminal justice. An enjoyable novel with a compelling mystery that provides greater depth to the famous detective.