Review: The Roanoke Girls

The Roanoke GirlsThe Roanoke Girls
Author: Amy Engel
Publisher: Crown
Genre/Themes: Mystery, Contemporary
Release Date: March 7th, 2017
Format:Ebook

Synopsis

Lane Roanoke is fifteen when she comes to live with her maternal grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, at the Roanoke family estate in rural Osage Flats, Kansas, following the suicide of her mother. Lane knows little of her mother’s family, other than the fact that her mother ran away years before and cut off all contact with her parents. There is a darkness at the heart of the Roanoke family, and when Lane discovers its insidious pull she has no choice but to run, as far and as fast as she can.

Eleven years later, Lane is scraping by in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls with the news that Allegra has gone missing. Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to Osage Flats, determined to find her cousin and assuage her own guilt at having left Allegra behind all those years ago.

Review

When I first read the synopsis for this novel, I knew I was going to enjoy reading it. It has everything I look for in a novel – the mystery of a missing girl, dark family secrets, and a young woman forced to confront her past. Amy Engel is a new author to me, but after reading this book, I will be picking up all of her other works.

This isn’t an easy book to read. It has some really shocking and disturbing subject matter that made me feel squeamish and sick to my stomach for a lot of the book. It’s extremely dark and twisted, but in my opinion, this book is as close to perfect as any book can get. It’s one of my new favourite novels and that’s not an honor I give out lightly.

There are a lot of shocks in this story, but the first one is dropped about 11% through the book. It’s done without any preamble or preparation, and I was taken completely by surprise even though I knew something big was coming. I just didn’t know what it would be and that it would be done so quickly. I liked that the reader knows what the big secret is right away, but it’s not boring since there are still layers that are peeled back as the story continues. The plot moved at a great pace and even though the novel is quiet, it has moments of drama that keep the reader transfixed.

Additionally, the atmosphere of this novel suits the novel so very well. The oppressive heat of the Kansas summer and the beauty and desolation of the Roanoke house combine to create a setting that mirrors the experiences of the characters. Just like the beauty of Roanoke hides something evil and twisted, every beautiful Roanoke girl was hiding something as well. It’s a marvelously written parallel and handled with such grace and eloquence by Amy Engel.

Lane was one of the best characters I’ve ever read. Even though she’s beautiful and sought after, her experiences have left her a mess. She’s self-destructive, selfish, cruel at times, and yet you can’t help but love her. I wanted the best for her and for Allegra. I wanted the best for all the Roanoke girls, and I loved all of them. The secondary characters were also so well-developed and interesting. I also really enjoyed the writing and the layout of the book because we learned about all the Roanoke girls. We understood who they were and we learned some of their secrets too. The one thing I was unsure about was the romantic subplot. I didn’t think I would like it, but I really ended up loving the way it developed. It was everything I wanted for Lane, and the ending was hopeful, which is the best I think you can ask when it comes to a book this tragic.

This book isn’t going to be for everyone. There are going to be people that are so bothered by the subject matter that they won’t be able to get past it to the beauty within. The darkness of the novel will mar everything else, but I really recommend people try and read past it. I want people to read down to the heart of this book, which is about a damaged protagonist trying to find redemption and a little hope. It’s a beautiful story, and one worth reading.

I received this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.

Luckiest Girl Alive – Jessica Knoll Review

Luckiest Girl Alive 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.

I received a copy of this book from Goodreads Giveaways, but this has not affected my review in any way.

When I first heard about this novel, I was excited to get my hands on it. It sounded so interesting and mysterious and hits all my “must-read” buttons. I’m happy to say that I really enjoyed this book and find Jessica Knoll to be a really promising new writer.

There’s a new trend in fiction these days that was started by Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. It’s the trend of dark, suspenseful novels with unsympathetic main characters. Personally, it’s a trend I’m fully behind because nobody is truly black and white. People aren’t heroes or villains and life is never that simple. It’s rewarding to have literature mimic this fact. I like how protagonists deal in shades of grey and make mistakes and can be just as flawed as people are. It’s a big risk to have your main character be unsympathetic, but in this novel it pays off.

I hated Ani when we were first introduced to her. She was vapid, superficial and completely obsessed with how people saw her. She works in a selfish industry, is obsessed with losing weight for her upcoming wedding, and proving to everyone how perfect her life is. Essentially, she’s one of those women you love to hate. By the end of the novel, all I wanted to do was give her a big hug.

The plot alternates between chapters in the present and chapters in the past. It comes together in a really superb way. While the big reveal wasn’t an original storyline, it was still extremely suspenseful and horrific. It completely explained what made Ani the person she is. While I enjoyed the high school chapters more than the frothy chapters that took place in the present, it was still a very enjoyable, compelling read.

This book will be released May 12th, 2015. Overall, I highly recommend this novel and I forsee big things for Jessica Knoll as a writer.

Dirty Little Secrets

Sometimes, we have a secret that is so embarrassing, so humiliating that it’s hard to tell people. I have been battling this particular secret for about seven years, but I think I’m finally ready to share my secret with the general population.

I…am a reality TV addict. My particular poison of choice is Big Brother.

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Dr. Will

My addiction started about seven years ago when I started to watch and became hooked to Big Brother All-Stars. There, I was introduced to the brilliance that is Dr. Will Kirby. Dr. Will was a sarcastic, self-centered, extremely vain individual, but he was a master manipulator. During his season (Season 2), he won the competition. He was so good he could convince someone in the house to put themselves on the block and make it seem like it was their idea. The guy was called the “puppet-master” because he just had a knack for getting people to do his bidding. However, the guy wasn’t without fault either. He was vain to a fault and rumour has it, he gave himself lipo. This was legal because he is a board certified dermatologist. After watching him on Big Brother, he’s probably not a doctor I’d ever want to go to. That’s also how I feel about Community’s Ken Jeong who is also an honest to goodness doctor. But I digress.

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Chilltown!

During the All-Stars season, him and his best friend Mike “Boogie” Malin had a super tight alliance that they named “Chilltown”. I know, it’s an extremely ridiculous name, but they were two ridiculous guys. During the All-Stars season, they ran that house. They managed to scam and manipulate their way to the Top 4. Mike Boogie won the All-Stars season and it cemented Chilltown as the best and most successful Big Brother Alliance in history. Til today, people strive to be the next Dr. Will and they’re never even close. I watch hoping that one day, there will be another who can pull people’s strings the way Will did.

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Power of Veto

Big Brother has some elements of the ridiculous in it, I know that. To sum up the game, there’s a Head of Household every week who is safe that week. They are also responsible for nominating two people for eviction and putting them up “on the block”. The nominated people along with the Head of Household and three other people drawn from a hat compete for the Power of Veto. If it is used, it can veto one of the nominations and force the Head of Household to put up a replacement house guest for eviction. However, it can’t be the person who is holding the Veto. Then, the entire house (except the nominated people) vote for who they want to evict. If there’s a tie, the Head of Household must break it. Yes, the competitions to determine these people can be kind of demeaning, but it’s not that big of an issue.

The entire game is basically a huge chess match. There’s so much strategy involved! It’s really important to know when to make alliances, who to make them with, when to keep your word, and when to lie. There’s also strategy involved with who to evict and when to do it.

I get involved with all the gameplay. I can’t help it! It’s just so fun to put yourself in the position of the people in the house and see what kind of decisions you would make. It’s not really about the drama and the back-stabbing for me, though it does certainly help make things more interesting.

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Janelle

Big Brother 14 started a few weeks ago with the twist of four houseguests from previous seasons (including Mike Boogie) coming back to mentor the houseguests. Recently, the mentors were put into the game as competitors so it’ll be really interesting to see what happens. My money is on Janelle Pierzina. She may not look it but she is a FIERCE competitor.

I know my love of Big Brother makes people roll their eyes, but if you can get past the slightly stupid part to it, it’s a really fun strategy game with a large dose of human nature thrown in. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.