My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Ayoola summons me with these words – Korede, I killed him.

I had hoped I would never hear those words again.

91vWDBRqMqLWith that awesome opening, Oyinkan Braithwaite had me hooked from the start. Her debut novel, My Sister, the Serial Killer, is quite the page-turner – a quirky, darkly funny, kind of sad, creepy depiction of sisters caught in a warped dynamic.

Korede is the responsible, plain-looking older sister, working as a nurse in a Lagos hospital. Ayoola is the younger, flightier, more beautiful sister who posts incessantly on Instagram and attracts men easily. We are drawn into the action immediately, as Ayoola asks for her sister’s help after she kills the man she’s been dating.

“We need to move the body,” I tell her.

“Are you angry at me?”

Perhaps a normal person would be angry, but what I feel now is a pressing need to dispose of the body.

We learn more about the sisters’ childhood, their violent and abusive father. We start to understand more about how that affected them.

More and more, she reminds me of him. He could do a bad thing and behave like a model citizen right after. As though the bad thing had never happened. Is it in the blood? But his blood is my blood and my blood is hers.

Korede is in love with a doctor at the hospital named Tade. He is unaware of how she feels, viewing her as a friend who really listens to him. Once Ayoola and Tade meet, a meeting Korede was desperate to block, a chain of events is set into motion that will give Korede the opportunity to break free from the family’s cycle of violence and dysfunction. Will she be strong enough to take it, though?

There are moments of humor sprinkled throughout the novel, enough to make this not a bleak book despite the subject matter.

“You’re not the only one suffering, you know. You act like you are carrying this big thing all by yourself, but I worry too.”

“Do you? ‘Cause the other day, you were singing ‘I Believe I Can Fly.'”

Ayoola shrugs. “It’s a good song.”

I alternately felt sorry for and frustrated by both sisters. But I never lost interest or stopped wanting to turn pages. (I also LOVE the cover.)  This is a smart, insightful debut and I can’t wait to see what Braithwaite does next.

 

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Five Sentence Reviews: Dear Mrs. Bird, Anne Lamott, and Romance!

I’ve been on a month-long yoga journey with the amazing Adriene Mishler of Yoga With Adriene. I’ve practiced EVERY NIGHT. This is kind of a big deal because I’m famous for starting things and not finishing them. There are three practices left in the sequence (I started a day late.) I’m telling you this because the nightly yoga, while amazing for my soul, posture, and core, is not conducive to blog posting. I’ve been reading, though, so I’m (as usual) a bit behind on reviews. Here are some five-sentence reviews to clear the decks. All of these were four-star reads. In fact, in January I’ve had ALL four-star reads. Still waiting for the first five-star of 2019!

81w5wudgvllDear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce. A charming historical fiction novel set in London during World War II. Emmy Lake is an irresistibly plucky heroine. She takes a job that she thinks is going to be a junior reporter for a newspaper but turns out to be a typist for an advice columnist at a floundering women’s magazine. Mrs. Bird, the advice columnist, is prudish and severe, so Emmy decides to secretly help the young women who need friendly advice in a scary time. This was an enjoyable yet moving look at lives in England during the Blitz.

After a big raid it was always sad to see flattened buildings and burnt-out churches which had stood for hundreds of years, but there was something rather triumphant about the monuments and statues, even the parks and big department stores that were still there, getting on with things. The Luftwaffe may have been  trying to blast us to pieces, but everyone just kept getting back up.

Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott. I love Anne Lamott. I listened to 39203790the audiobook, read by the author, and it was wonderful. If you’ve never read her before, she’s like a kindly, slightly kooky neighbor or aunt who tells you hard truths about life but also gives you M&Ms and hugs. She is consistently hopeful yet aware of the pain of the world and unfairness of life. Reading her makes me feel better, stronger, less crazy, and this was one of her better recent books.

It’s okay to stop hitting the snooze button and to wake up and pay attention to what makes you feel okay about yourself, one meal at a time. Unfortunately, it’s yet another inside job. If you are not okay with yourself at 185 pounds, you may not be okay at 150, or even 135. The self-respect and peace of mind you long for is not in your weight. It’s within you. I resent that more than I can say. But it’s true. Finding a way to have a relatively healthy and safe relationship with food is hard, and it involves being one’s very own dearest person. This will not cause chaos or death, as you were surely taught, but rather an environment where you can drown out the many mean and mistaken voices.

51flpz8fm5lA Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole (Reluctant Royals #1.) A fun, smart, sexy page-turner. This contemporary romance features a guarded, independent STEM-based grad student heroine, Naledi, and an actual prince from the fictional African country of Thesolo, Thabiso, who comes to New York to track down his long-lost betrothed. A case of mistaken identity brings to two together, where they experience undeniable chemistry. The storyline was so well-crafted I kind of skimmed over the sexy parts, to be honest. These characters were fully realized and incredibly likeable; I can’t wait to read more of this series (the next focuses on Naledi’s best friend Portia.)

“Um,” she said. Her general reaction to men she met in her daily life was indifference or tolerance, at best, but something about this man sent her thoughts spinning far, far away from lab work or serving or studying. The only data she was currently interested in collecting was the exact tensile pressure of his beard against her inner thigh, and the shift in mass of his body on top of hers.

Have you read any of these? Have you had a five-star read yet in 2019?

 

 

 

 

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Is this what’s become of me? A woman who gawks like a guppy at an every day lunch hour? A visitor from another world, awed by the miracle of a new grocery store? Deep within my dry-iced brain, something throbs, something angry and vanquished. A flush sunrises in my cheeks. This is what’s become of me. This is who I am.

Sometimes what you need is a purely escapist thriller. A don’t-think-too-hard-about-it, page-turning suspense novel. Something you can finish in 2 or 3 days, even with work and family and hard things going on in your life. I greedily gobbled up A.J. Finn’s best-selling debut, The Woman in the Window, grateful for the respite from reality. (It’s hugely popular in the U.S. right now – my library system has a wait list over 200 people long, usually reserved for the likes of John Grisham and James Patterson. I must have put my name down relatively early I guess!)

u34+1F!EVWH7ngw7NLVXIcKIKW2pmYA+Gl!w8rbMsYH!BRIAG5OUet9tcq9F2XjffXkZsjELHH1dotzfe59Az8458JDs9D0t2hphI9KAc!+WsW1OYzkgsRAdZgmVYczuAnna Fox is severely agoraphobic, a virtual prisoner in her New York City home. She has a physical therapist and a psychiatrist who come over weekly to tend to her. She orders food (but mostly wine) online. She plays chess and takes French lessons online too. A former psychiatrist herself, she gives mental health advice to her fellow agoraphobics on an online chat room dedicated to the condition. She speaks to and about her family, husband Ed and daughter Olivia, who don’t live with her in the home. We don’t know what’s happened, but hints are dropped bit by bit that something terrible has happened, something for which Anna has blamed herself and that has resulted in the lonely half-life she currently lives.

Oh, and she also obsessively watches her neighbors through her camera lens. When she becomes acquainted with the new family who has moved in across the park, the Russells, crazy things start happening. Anna witnesses a gruesome act of violence through her window, but she can’t get anyone to believe her or corroborate her tale – not the police, not the Russells themselves. A heavy drinker and liberal mixer of medication and alcohol, Anna starts to doubt herself. The reader is taken along with Anna as she tries to prove that what she saw was real and that more people – including Anna herself – are in very real danger.

So we’ve got an addicted, possibly unreliable narrator as we did in Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, but I have to say that Finn’s writing elevated this novel over that one in my mind. Also, Anna is a much more sympathetic character than Rachel was, and as the novel goes along we get a glimpse into the truly devastating event that changed everything for her. I wanted Anna to quit mixing her wine and her meds already and rejoin the world, but I can’t say that I blamed her when I found out what happened. Still, I rooted for her.

I seem to have a weakness for these big, splashy thrillers that “everyone” is reading. I LOVED Gone Girl, really liked both of Ruth Ware’s novels that I’ve read, and thought that Paula Hawkins’s follow-up, Into the Water, was even better than Girl on the Train. I have to say that I think it’s best to approach these books with the mindset of fun and escapism, and not try to deconstruct or look too closely at the undercarriage. Maybe it was my distracted frame of mind, but there was a twist in this one that I did NOT see coming. There was one red herring that I did guess, or at the least my radar was alarmed by and had confirmed by the end.

I recommend The Woman in the Window if you’re a fan of thrillers, or if you’re just in the mood for a page-turning read. Also, side bonus: Anna is a huge fan of classic movies, especially Hitchcock films. (There’s a Rear Window vibe to this book for sure.) There are a ton of films referenced in the novel, and it reminded me again how many of his films I’ve not yet watched. In fact, I ordered Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934 version) from my library to watch later this week. I don’t know that this book is one that will stay with me for long, but it was just what I needed to sink my teeth into recently. It would be a very good poolside read for the summer. 4 stars.

What’s the last escapist/page-turning book you read? Talk to me!