2015 Book #69 – Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

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Title: Luckiest Girl Alive
Author: Jessica Knoll
Date finished: 7/8/15
Genre:  Fiction/Suspense
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Pages in book: 338
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Terryville Public Library

Blurb from the cover:

HER PERFECT LIFE IS A PERFECT LIE.
As a teenager at the prestigious Bradley School, Ani FaNelli endured a shocking, public humiliation that left her desperate to reinvent herself. Now, with a glamorous job, expensive wardrobe, and handsome blue blood fiancé, she’s this close to living the perfect life she’s worked so hard to achieve.
But Ani has a secret.
There’s something else buried in her past that still haunts her, something private and painful that threatens to bubble to the surface and destroy everything.
With a singular voice and twists you won’t see coming, Luckiest Girl Alive explores the unbearable pressure that so many women feel to “have it all” and introduces a heroine whose sharp edges and cutthroat ambition have been protecting a scandalous truth, and a heart that’s bigger than it first appears.
The question remains: will breaking her silence destroy all that she has worked for—or, will it at long last, set Ani free?

My rating: 4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I feel like I have seen this book everywhere over the last few months. Every couple months now I feel like a book will come out and everyone says its the next “Gone Girl” but its nothing like Gone Girl. And that’s pretty much what happened with this one. It even says right on the front of the book “With the cunning and verve of Gillian Flynn” (Gone Girl author), leading readers to believe this will fill the hole in them that Gone Girl left behind. I think its unfair in most cases to compare one book to another because each is its own little magical portal and while you may find similarities in them, they really aren’t comparable. And to be honest I saw more parallels to Gone Girl in The Daylight Marriage than I did in this book.
Anyways, so this book is about TifAni FaNelli, who grew up far too quickly when she transferred from a Catholic girls school to an upper class private school almost an hour away from her house. She was expelled from the Catholic school for an incident that had to do with pot, but I thought the whole thing was odd since she didn’t get the pot in the first place. So she ends up going to this hoity toity private school with a bunch of rich kids whose parents don’t ever supervise them so they end up spending all their time getting drunk and doing drugs. She makes friends with the popular kids eventually but then an “incident” causes her to fall out of favor with them. I don’t want to say too much about what else happens with the high school stuff because it is a bit of a twist. The book alternates between her remembering these events from her childhood/high school experience and her at twenty-nine when she is getting ready for her wedding in a few weeks and having a lot of second thoughts. Due to the trauma she dealt with in high school, she has a lot of undealt-with issues as an adult that she has trouble dealing with on a day-to-day basis. She also kind of has a selfish, thought-less fiance who doesn’t see anything past the surface with her and I don’t know how she wasn’t screaming in frustration all the time at him.
There were a lot of other things too that frustrated me about this book. I will say that TifAni is raped while in high school and when her mother finds out her reaction is “You don’t have a body like TifAni’s and go to a party with all boys and drink too much and not know exactly what you’re doing there.” Honestly I had to put the book down for a moment I was so mad. I can’t even imagine a mother so callous. I’m sure a fourteen year old girl who had never drank before (and therefore had no idea where she should limit herself while drinking) had no intention of going to a party and getting so drunk that when a boy found her drunk on the floor he decided to have sex with her unconscious body. WHAT MOTHER THINKS THAT IS HER DAUGHTER’S FAULT. Maybe if she weren’t such a desperate to climb the social ladder wanna-be then her daughter wouldn’t be in this situation. Rant over.
So like I was saying, there were a lot of things about this book that frustrated me. Not in a “this book is awful” way but more in a “these characters are frustrating but that’s a piece of the story” way. I’ve never experienced a character in any other book before that I was able to hate, pity, and admire all at the same time. Ani ends up having a crap ton of issues that kind of make her into a bitch (excuse the language) but through the book you see past the layers of bitch to the scared little girl that just wants to find somewhere she can feel safe again. And she has survived and dealt with so much and went on to find a job she loves and thrives at and its hard not to admire how much she’s managed to accomplish. I thought the ending was a little odd and vague but other than that I thought this was a good book. Not one of my all-time favorites but quite good.
The bottom line: Eh, I think I would recommend this book, probably not universally though. I would recommend it if I knew the person liked suspense fiction.
Link to author website
Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2015 Book #38 – Girls of Tender Age by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith

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Title: Girls of Tender Age: A Memoir
Author: Mary-Ann Tirone Smith
Date finished: 4/27/15
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Free Press
Publication Date: January 11, 2006
Pages in book: 285
Stand alone or series: Stand alone

Blurb from the cover:

In Girls of Tender Age, Mary-Ann Tirone Smith fully articulates with great humor and tenderness the wild jubilance of an extended French-Italian family struggling to survive in a post-World War II housing project in Hartford, Connecticut. Smith seamlessly combines a memoir whose intimacy matches that ofAngela’s Ashes with the tale of a community plagued by a malevolent predator that holds the emotional and cultural resonance of The Lovely Bones.
Smith’s Hartford neighborhood is small-town America, where everyone’s door is unlocked and the school, church, library, drugstore, 5 & 10, grocery, and tavern are all within walking distance. Her family is peopled with memorable characters — her possibly psychic mother who’s always on the verge of a nervous breakdown, her adoring father who makes sure she has something to eat in the morning beyond her usual gulp of Hershey’s syrup, her grandfather who teaches her to bash in the heads of the eels they catch on Long Island Sound, Uncle Guido who makes the annual bagna cauda, and the numerous aunts and cousins who parade through her life with love and food and endless stories of the old days. And then there’s her brother, Tyler.
Smith’s household was “different.” Little Mary-Ann couldn’t have friends over because her older brother, Tyler, an autistic before anyone knew what that meant, was unable to bear noise of any kind. To him, the sound of crying, laughing, phones ringing, or toilets flushing was “a cloud of barbed needles” flying into his face. Subject to such an assault, he would substitute that pain with another: he’d try to chew his arm off. Tyler was Mary-Ann’s real-life Boo Radley, albeit one whose bookshelves sagged under the weight of the World War II books he collected and read obsessively.
Hanging over this rough-and-tumble American childhood is the sinister shadow of an approaching serial killer. The menacing Bob Malm lurks throughout this joyous and chaotic family portrait, and the havoc he unleashes when the paths of innocence and evil cross one early December evening in 1953 forever alters the landscape of Smith’s childhood.
Girls of Tender Age is one of those books that will forever change its readers because of its beauty and power and remarkable wit.

My rating: 4 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book was lent to me by my friend from work, Jim Lyons. He lent it to me last year though, and since I am an awful person I haven’t read it yet. Therefore at the beginning of the year I added it to my list for the Roof Beam Reader TBR Pile Reading Challenge. I might have put this off a little because I usually read mostly fiction and this book was a memoir. I have to be honest though, I loved this book. It was interesting, emotional, and riveting. It was especially interesting for me since I’ve lived in Connecticut my whole life and the book has a lot of different Connecticut facts included in the memoir.
I don’t usually read many non-fiction books but the author lays out the story in a very interesting way. There are a variety of issues addressed in this memoir, including the murder of Mary-Ann’s friend when they were young, dealing with Tyler’s autism before anyone knows what autism is, and a look at how sexual assault cases are addressed in the 1950’s. It looks at the friend’s murder from a child’s point of view and talks about how this affected her growing up. There were many emotions throughout the book, I was tearing up by the end. This was a very well written memoir and I am very glad that my friend Jim lent it to me to read!

The bottom line: Not my usual cup of tea but I loved it. Would recommend, particularly to people from CT.

Link to author website
Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page