Book Review: My Sister, the Serial Killer

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My Sister, the Serial Killer is a blackly comic novel about how blood is thicker – and more difficult to get out of the carpet – than water…

When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other…

Review:
The title and cover of this book were instant draws for me. Then there’s the synopsis, which is absolutely wonderful.
I really enjoyed this book — the story of 2 very different sisters, Korede who takes care of everything and does what is expected of her and Ayoola who is very beautiful and flits her way through life. This is the story of Korede and how she cleans up after her sister after Ayoola murders her boyfriends, but there is also so much more.
It is a story of family relationships and expectations and how we are perceived. It’s about wants and desires and what we do to get them. It’s about social media and how men view women.
I loved Braithwaite’s writing and how she used satire and dark humour to get her points across. The characters were well developed, even in this short book, and I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. She certainly doesn’t mince words!
Overall, this is a short and sweet read that is engaging, funny, and well worth the read.
Thank you to Edelweiss+ and the publisher for a review copy of this book.
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Book Review: The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan

Masha is drowning. Once a spirited, independent woman with a rebellious streak, her life has been forever changed by a tragic event twelve years ago. Unable to let go of her grief, she finds solace in the silent company of the souls of her local Victorian cemetery and at the town’s lido, where she seeks refuge underwater – safe from the noise and the pain.

But a chance encounter with two extraordinary women – the fabulous and wise Kitty Muriel, a convent girl-turned-magician’s wife-turned-seventy-something-roller-disco-fanatic, and the mysterious Sally Red Shoes, a bag lady with a prodigious voice – opens up a new world of possibilities, and the chance to start living again.

Until the fateful day when the past comes roaring back…

Review:
I loved this book. It had me hooked with the cover and the synopsis, and the story did not disappoint. Hogan’s writing is wonderful and I found myself liking the book better as the story went on.
This book is about grief. Masha’s son died at a young age and she never got over it. Two wonderful women come into her life, the eccentric Kitty and the elusive Sally Red Shoes and they help to teach her lessons that she needs to move on.
This really is a touching story and my heart grieved for Masha and her loss. I loved her big dog and the walks they took in the graveyard, the dinners she would get dressed up for with her interesting friends, and even how her trauma informed how she looked at the world. She definitely grew as a character and it was wonderful to experience.
Grief is a difficult subject to write on and Hogan did a beautiful job with a book that really touched me and made me think, laugh, and cry.
Thank you to Netgalley and Two Roads for the review copy of this book.
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Book Review: Mostly Dead Things

Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett

One morning, Jessa-Lynn Morton walks into the family taxidermy shop to find that her father has committed suicide, right there on one of the metal tables. Shocked and grieving, Jessa steps up to manage the failing business, while the rest of the Morton family crumbles. Her mother starts sneaking into the shop to make aggressively lewd art with the taxidermied animals. Her brother Milo withdraws, struggling to function. And Brynn, Milo’s wife—and the only person Jessa’s ever been in love with—walks out without a word. As Jessa seeks out less-than-legal ways of generating income, her mother’s art escalates—picture a figure of her dead husband and a stuffed buffalo in an uncomfortably sexual pose—and the Mortons reach a tipping point. For the first time, Jessa has no choice but to learn who these people truly are, and ultimately how she fits alongside them.

Kristen Arnett’s debut novel is a darkly funny, heart-wrenching, and eccentric look at loss and love.

Review:
This is a book that, after reading the blurb, I really wanted to love; however, I didn’t. It was fine. It was funny at times. It was strange. I’m good with strange, but there was something about this book that just didn’t resonate with me.
Partly, I think, I just didn’t love the main character, Jessa, until nearly the end of the book. I found her character tedious at times and I just wanted to shake her. I couldn’t get into the strange relationship that both her and her brother had with Brynn. I also didn’t like how Milo, her brother, was basically a non-existent parent. That didn’t sit well at all. It had been something like 14 years since Brynn left and still Jessa and Milo couldn’t get themselves together.
The book also dragged, especially in the middle, but it did pick up at the end. Maybe this book is more of an exploration of an idea than a strong story.
I did love Jessa’s mother, though. She was fantastic. I loved how she rearranged the taxidermied animals in “artistic” ways and how she used her art to come to terms with her life and marriage. She was the only one with any life in her, and maybe that was the point.
Other people seem to love this book, however, so maybe it is more of a case of this book just not being for me.
Thank you to Netgalley and Tin House Books for a review copy.
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Book Review: Woman 99

Woman 99 by Greer Macallister

A vivid historical thriller about a young woman whose quest to free her sister from an infamous insane asylum risks her sanity, her safety and her life

Charlotte Smith’s future is planned to the last detail, and so was her sister’s – until Phoebe became a disruption. When their parents commit Phoebe to a notorious asylum, Charlotte knows there’s more to the story than madness. Shedding her identity to become an anonymous inmate, “Woman Ninety-Nine,” Charlotte uncovers dangerous secrets. Insanity isn’t the only reason her fellow inmates were put away – and those in power will do anything to keep the truth, or Charlotte, from getting out.

Review:
I found myself drawn into this book right away. Charlotte is a young woman of marriageable age who lives in the 1880s San Francisco and her life laid out for her — her mother is social climbing, her father is always working, she has fallen in love with someone she can’t marry, and her sister, Phoebe, is “difficult”. When Phoebe gets sent to a notorious asylum, Charlotte decides to follow her in order to free her, even if it means breaking the rules and risking her own happiness.
Macallister clearly did her research on asylums of the time as her descriptions of life there feel authentic and not “over the top”. I also loved the relationships that Charlotte developed. It is clear that she loves her sister and that she has a rosy view of her, but she grows and learns at the asylum, meeting and becoming friends with women she never would have even talked to before her experience there.
I also enjoyed the author’s social commentary on “inconvenient” women and how society tries to deal with them — and how many of the women fight back. But she doesn’t shy away from mental illness, either, recognizing that some people do need help because they simply cannot function in society as it is.
Overall, this was a great read that had pretty much everything — sisters, history, loyalty, suspense, romance, rule breaking, risk taking, and some difficult conversations. Woman 99 approaches an interesting time in history, especially as far as mental health is concerned, and does it in an engaging, very readable way.
Thank you to Netgalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for the review copy of this book.
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