The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue
Author: Mackenzi Lee
“God bless the book people for their boundless knowledge absorbed from having words instead of friends…”
Monty is a bit of a rake whose getting one last chance not to embarrass his father when he goes on a tour of the Continent with his best friend Percy (who he’s in love with) and his younger sister Felicity. Absolutely nothing goes as planned and embarrassing his father becomes the least of his worries.
And The Trees Crept In
Author: Dawn Kurtagich
Two sisters leave behind an abusive situation and take refuge with an Aunt at a strange family manor in the woods. Everything goes well for a little while and then Aunt Cath goes off to crazy town, the food dries up, the house begins to rot and the trees… Well, the trees are getting closer.
A Madness So Discreet
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Genre: Mystery? History? Thriller?
A Madness So Discreet was the Owlcrate book of the month for October and it was supposed to be one of my scary book reads. While it was intriguing and in some places maddening I’m not really sure what it was but it wasn’t scary or spooky or anything else.
The beginning starts off super promising. Grace Mae is institutionalized not because she is crazy but because the people around her have done horrible things to here and unfortunately she is powerless. This has some atmosphere. This has some great elements. A horrible asylum head. All the questionable and down right criminal ideas about treating people back in those days. And a creepy dude in a dungeon like area of the hospital that seemed to have some sort of ability to see people. I’m liking it. It doesn’t last.
Grace winds up in rather a nice asylum pretty quickly making good friends and trying to put her past behind her while helping a Doctor try to solve the murder of several local girls.
The problem from this point on is that it pretty much doesn’t go anywhere. I don’t want to get into spoilers but this mystery is wrapped up super quick and while eventually I did come to appreciate the ending I had some major problems with how it was playing out and while I thought Grace was an interesting character I could also never really get a feel for her.
So that pretty much sums it up for me. It has a lot of intriguing ideas but it felt all over the place. I’m not unwilling to say that maybe the book was marketed poorly and I had certain expectations but even taking that into account it was potential with very little to no pay off.
Recommend: Honestly, I’d skip this one unless maybe you tend to like historical stories about asylums. FYI, trigger warnings below….
Rape, Sexual Abuse, Child Molestation and a Miscarriage
The Wild Girl
Author: Kate Forsyth
Genre: Real People
I just want to give upfront trigger warnings for sexual abuse, child abuse and rape.
The Wild Girl is the story of Dortchen Wild, a young girl living with her parents and her sisters in Hesse-Cassel when Napoleon was rampaging his way through Europe. When she is only twelve she meets and pretty much immediately falls in love with her best friend’s older brother Wilhelm Grimm. He and his brother though dirt poor (like everyone) are putting together a book of old tales that as we all know will last the ages.
First off I have to say Forsyth is a wonderful writer and she really spins out this story. She does a good job with Dortchen’s sisters and related secondary characters making them spark and giving them enough importance to make you care. Also this is not a time period I know that much about. When I read she lived in Hesse-Cassel I was like, ‘Hey, that was a place! I learned about it in history class!’ That was about what I knew. Obviously I’ve read the Grimm brothers but it was interesting to see how this behind the scenes. Dortchen and her sisters and their old maid contribute a lot to the tales.
It doesn’t go into too much detail with the stories and you get little hints here and there. A lot of what you get are the darker version of the tales which when published don’t do that well and the Grimm brothers get pressed to make them more “friendly.” So that was always a thing.
This is really Dortchen’s story though. Her father is presented as a horrible person from the beginning but at a certain point the story takes a turn and it becomes painfully obvious not only is he verbally abusive toward Dortchen he’s targeting her for something worse. Forsyth really ups the feeling of dread as anyone or anything that could help Dortchen is gotten rid of one by one. Even Dortchen knows what is coming and she’s powerless to stop it.
It was really hard to read at that point not only because you so want someone to stick a knife through this guys heart before the inevitable but because after you can see Dortchen disappearing. She begins as a brave, fearless, selfless girl whose always helping people and she winds up a frightened woman afraid to touch or love and riddled with nightmares even after her monster is gone.
I found myself really moved by her story and her relationship with Wilhelm, as they grew and changed, felt very real especially under the circumstances. It really was a story that unsettled me and I thought a very good depiction of the effects of abuse. So in the author’s notes at the end when Forsyth says she settled on that as one of the main reasons so many years pass before Wild and Grimm are actually together I admit I was a little put off.
Despite that I think Forsyth did a really great job of bringing this character and this romance to life and I’ll be checking out more of her writing in the future.
Recommend: Yes. Dortchen Wild is one of my favorite characters of the year. Just take into account the issues that come up in the story
Luckiest Girl Alive
Author: Jessica Knoll
I struggled with this one. At its base it’s not a poorly written book. There’s a lot of potential but it just doesn’t work out. It’s an explosion of violence, cruelty, humiliation and when all that was done I still wasn’t sure exactly what the book was aiming to be at the end.
Ani is a grown woman with a good job, a handsome rich fiancé that anyone would want, a pill-popping bestie and a past she’s struggled to put behind her. Years ago she was TifAni Fanelli (and I hate to nitpick but the TifAni spelling really bugged me) a wrong side of the tracks kind girl whose money chasing mother puts her in a ritzy rich kids kind of school.
BEWARE SLIGHT SPOILERS AND SOME TRIGGER WARNINGS ARE COMING:
The book’s back describes what happens to her as humiliation and that’s only part of it. She’s raped by multiple boys at a party and what comes after is some torture and humiliation at the hands of multiple students that I’m serious… These kids could be torturing prisoners of war. That was one of the big knocks against the book for me besides getting tired of the use of rape as a way to “humiliate” female characters.
It got to the point where I didn’t find it believable that these kids could get away with it. I mean there’s one really horrible scene where a teacher piles on in front of the whole class and the only kid that tries to defend her winds up expelled!
Her father is absent to say the least and her mother is awful. There again I couldn’t help think that a woman so obsessed with money like her mother is presented would blame her daughter instead of suing the crap out of those kids and the school. But that’s just me. It all culminates in a brutal act of school violence that I didn’t see coming. The violence targets the bullies and leaves TifAni with a moral dilemma choice that she’s still thinking about all those years later. A horrible scene but sadly the most interesting part of the book.
Meanwhile Ani’s life in the present day is… pretty basic. She struggles with feelings for a teacher who was the one nice person but still didn’t help her. Her fiancé is an ass and that’s pretty obvious. Other than as a basis to tell the story of her past I’m not sure the present day added much. Will Ani move on?
There is actually a beat at the end where you wonder. It’s the end though so it’s left up in the air and doesn’t go anywhere. I guess you can make your own decisions about that one but I was so ready for the book to be over. There were no characters that I liked. Even Ani left me cold. The book cover compares it to Gone Girl so maybe the author was going for the Amy Dunne vibe but it didn’t work out at all with me.
Trigger Warnings: Rape, Drugs, Extreme Violence in a School, Bullying
Recommend: No. Honestly if you’re looking for something like this I’d just go back and read more Gillian Flynn.