[758]: Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Taylor Jenkins Reid’s latest novel is an avant-garde in its own right: ambitious, hardly pretentious, and a larger than life endeavor that realistically portrays the hard and fast life of rock and roll. Choosing the autobiographical format of a fictional band in the 70s, she successfully allowed her readers to immerse in the life of her characters. 

By choice, I am one of those readers who can’t stand destructive characters, and Daisy Jones was simply destruction, defined.  On the other side of the coin was Billy Dunne. A reformed drug and alcohol addict who nearly ruined his life and marriage if not for fatherhood. 

Reading this novel wasn’t easy.  Often times, it angered me. Not because the writing was comically bad, because, hell, this is TJR, after all. But it was the story itself that bothered me.  I’m an unforgiving reader when it comes to drug use in books. Call me prude, but I just can’t sit here and watch it unfold before my eyes. I get so bothered by characters that use drugs to escape, and use drugs as a means to explain the person they’ve become, their source of weakness and strength, their hell and oblivion. I just can’t.

My encounter with her novels has never been the stuff of legends. In fact, out of all her books (that I mostly own), I’ve only read two. And it’s because I found I have to psych myself up to reading them.  I know her novels are as real as it gets. Difficult relationships and equally difficult characters littered the pages of her books. Why I never bought a clue that Daisy Jones would be just as hard a character to decode escapes me.  

This novel reads like an episode of VH1 Behind the Music; an oral history of their lives, their music, their heartbreaks, successes, and failures. I could readily admit that throughout my life, I’ve never read something like Daisy Jones. It was ingenious and at times, I could easily ignore the stuff that bothered me. But since drugs are as regular as breathing for Daisy, it was a challenge. 

So Billy Dunne and Daisy Jones cross paths largely in part because of a mutual friend that saw the potential of what their combined talents could bring.  The dynamic was tenuous at best. Both are hardheaded and dedicated to their craft. Neither wanted to give in without drawing blood first, but underneath – a mutual respect. One of the story arcs that I also could not forgive is cheating. But in this instance, how I wish one of the characters in this book actually gave in and damned the consequences. 

In the end, I wish I could’ve loved Daisy as much as Daisy loved her drugs. Unfortunately, and as much this novel was amazingly written, I couldn’t forgive it for not giving me what I want. And it really sucks. 

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[751]: Aftermath by Kelley Armstrong

Aftermath
by Kelley Armstrong


Have you ever thought about what it was like for the families of the shooters who killed innocent people? Not in the way that they are victimized, but just how life goes on after one of their own shoot up a school and are labeled as murderers for the rest of their natural born life?

Kelley offers a fascinating perspective into the life of a victim in his or her own way. It was interesting, heartbreaking, and frustrating because this victim is the sister of one of the suspected shooters.  She was shunned and was treated like she pulled the trigger herself. On the other side of the coin is Jesse, whose brother was actually one of victims of the shooting itself. Once upon a time, Jesse and Skye were the best of friends. But because Skye’s brother was one of the shooters, their friendship was just one of the many things that ended on that day.

Being back in the town that Skye left soon after the tragedy happened was in the list of things she’d rather not do. But with her mother’s deteriorating state of mind, and her grandmother’s recent stroke left her no choice but to move back in with her aunt. To nobody else’s surprise, the town did not give her the warmest of welcomes – especially in a school where most of the students knew her and of her brother.  Everyone treated her like a pariah, even Jesse, her former best friend.

Everyday she’s faced with a reminder of the shooting. People haven’t moved on. Skye has known in her heart that Luka, her brother, was not the villain everyone had painted him to be. And as life in town and in school got even harder, she’d awaken a determination to get to the truth.

This was a hard read all around. I have read a lot of books by Ms. Armstrong but nothing as relevant a subject as a school shooting.  It’s a sensitive subject in it that the senseless loss of lives is involved, and an author needs to paint a clear view of both sides. I feel that Kelley did the best she could in presenting a non-biased view. She invoked a sincere empathy that made the readers feel all the difficult struggles on both sides, post-shooting.

Kelley is the equivalent of M. Night Shyamalan in the book world. She knows how to plot a twist that will leave you breathless upon reveal. The same goes in this novel. She crafted a convincing story that is a page turner of a thriller. Time and again, her characters are well padded, not necessarily wholesome; neither perfect, but the realest you’ll ever read.

Armstrong the veteran knows how to give her readers something new, compelling, and brave and she proves it with every book that she pens.

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[750]: The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner by Sarah Weinman

The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner
by Sarah Weinman


Sarah Weinman’s literary investigative piece aims to prove what Nabokov had long since denied: that Lolita was based on a true crime that happened in the 50s. It’s a huge undertaking to say the least. But Ms. Weinman is not new to the business. A journalist and a crime writer by trade, she knows a thing or two about investigation and research. The great deterrence to what she’d set out to do was time and paltry record-keeping.

She was forthcoming at least on the number of times she stumbled during the course of her investigation when she was unable to produce evidence. On the other hand, she was very convincing in her point that Nabokov somehow, someway imitated life when he wrote his novel. Through means of parallelization, Weinman at least made her case.

She also aims to give Sally Horner a voice, to tell her side of the story. She was a mere 11-year-old when she first encountered her abductor, but for whatever reason, Frank LaSalle didn’t take her right away. He waited another year before he came back for Sally. Two years after her abduction, Sally showed no physical trauma. But the psychological implications of her captivity had a lasting, albeit, short effect. Short, because she died in a car accident shortly after.

Sally’s fateful meeting with LaSalle began as a shoplifting prank. Dared to steal a notebook from the store just to try and get into her peer’s good graces, Sally didn’t realize that someone witnessed it all. And before she could even walk out the door, she was grabbed by a man who claimed to be an FBI agent. Threatened to send to her to a reform school as a punishment, LaSalle then told her that if she cooperated with him in some capacity, he would release her on a premise that he’d come back to mete out her punishment.

He sought her out again after months of disappearing. He told her that the ‘government’ wanted her to come with him to Atlantic City but she can’t tell her family the truth. He convinced her to tell them that she was going away with her friend and her family for the weekend. With a mere phone call from Frank pretending to be the friend’s father, Sally’s mother took her to the bus station under the assumption that she would meet up with her friend. It would be two years later before she would see Sally again.

What followed was two years of spent mostly on the road, living the assumed life of a widowed father with his daughter in tow.

As in Lolita, Humbert was undeniably portrayed as a predator of deviant taste. Nabokov didn’t pull any punches or romanticized the kind of monster he was. LaSalle was very much the same. His criminal life involved a number of abduction and sexual relations with children. But Humbert was fictional, and LaSalle was very much real. Weinman drew subtle parallels between the characters and the storyline quite effectively so – which, in my opinion was highly convincing.

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