Hurt People: A Novel by Cote Smith — A Review

hurt peopleHurt People: A Novel by Cote Smith

RaeleighReads rating: cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3

Wow. This was haunting.

Well-written, atmospheric, intense — a book that will pick you up, drop you on your ass, and then reach out a hand to help you back up.

In Hurt People, the reader is thrust down into the mind, albeit the very highly functioning mind, of a young boy.

The word atmospheric seems very appropriate here — the setting is a slow, sleepy summer in Kansas, just down the road from Leavenworth Prison. But this summer is simmering with something sinister on the edges. The narrator and his brother spend their time ignoring their mother’s rules, learning pool tricks with a new friend, and watching bad horror movies with their dad, but there is so much more happening on the periphery, and we glimpse it by bits and pieces, tinged with childish imagination. The bond between the brothers is strong, but it is tested greatly when a large secret they share between them must be told.

I put this on my suspense shelf, though that isn’t quite right. There is an underlying tension, but it’s subtle — seen through the mind of our young narrator. This narrator’s mind is fascinating — equal parts razor sharp and whimsical, and Smith really captures the essence of how children think (or at least how I think they probably think).

My only complaint:


This is a slooooow read, especially in the first half. The writing is very good though, so if you have time to spend sinking into it, it’s well worth it.

I would recommend it for people who enjoy literary fiction; slow, simmering suspense; examination of family dynamics; and the narrative perspective of highly intelligent children.

Thanks to NetGalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for my review copy.




Yes Please by Amy Poehler — A Review

yes pleaseYes Please by Amy Poehler

RaeleighReads rating: cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3

“You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing.”

Amy Poehler is hilarious, obviously, but I already knew that from watching her in sketches on SNL and in her roles in Baby Mama, Wet Hot American Summer, Mean Girls, Parks & Recreation, and Sisters (I know, I watch alotta Amy Poehler — deal with it).

What this book taught me about Amy, is that she has a spectacular way with words (seriously this woman’s vocabulary is massive and her sentence structure is always new and interesting); she has a huge and sensitive heart; an incredible work ethic; some pretty fantastic ideas about recreational drug use; and she seems like she would be an AMAZING bestie. Please let her know I’m available if she’s ever in the market. You know, should she and Tina ever have a falling out. It’s more likely that the world would end abruptly, but, just in case, I thought I’d put that out there.

Now, I did listen to the audiobook, and I feel like that was the absolute best choice because her words were delivered in her unmistakable voice. I laughed, I cried, I laugh-cried. I got a lot of strange looks because I listened to this in public, but I did not care.

“It takes years as a woman to unlearn what you have been taught to be sorry for. It takes years to find your voice and seize your real estate.”

If you love comedy, improv, acting, or show biz AT ALL, you should devour this. If you’re thinking, oh, comedy’s not really my thing…you should devour this. It’s honest and sensitive and yes, funny, but it is also very intimate. While she did not share super personal, nitty-gritty details of her divorce, she did open up a huge window into how her mind works, her struggles with sleep and anxiety, and her overwhelming, and in fact, all-consuming love for her children.

“I swear, if I could eat my children, I would. I’d consume them like some beast in a Hieronymus Bosch painting, but in a friendlier, more mom-like way. Their little bodies make me salivate. It takes everything I have not to swallow them whole.”

What a woman!

P.S. Amy, Yes! Please read ALL THE THINGS!!!

ThankyouThankyouThankyou 😉

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler — A Review

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

RaeleighReads Rating: 3 out of 5 coffee cups

“For years, she had been in mourning for the way she had let her life slip through her fingers. Given another chance, she’d told herself, she would take more care to experience it. But lately, she was finding that she had experienced it after all and just forgotten, and now it was returning to her.”

Meh. I don’t really know where to go with this one. The book wasn’t my favorite, but it wasn’t really bad. I didn’t find it particularly interesting, but neither did I find it particularly uninteresting.

A Spool of Blue Thread is well-written, well-structured, and well, had decently crafted characters. The plot? Ummm, there really wasn’t one. This book follows a family through its ups and downs and ins and outs. It moves backward and forward in the family’s timeline, revealing characteristics of particular family members as it goes. The only thing that propels the book forward is that occasionally Tyler will drop a bomb on the otherwise boring, day-to-day motion.

I absolutely hated the character of Denny. He was the square peg in the round hole of this family, and he lived up to all of my expectations as a character, meaning he started out as an irritating jerk and ended as an irritating jerk. I didn’t really care for the matriarch either. Abby seemed equal parts empty-headed and needy. Two things I detest in female characters. Her husband wasn’t much better. Really, all this book confirmed for me is that if you take a snapshot of a “typical American family” (read white, middle-class, religiously ambiguous) you will find that it is essentially pointless. The only meaning to be found here is that human beings tend to stick to one another for no other reason than it seems to make passing the time a bit easier.

Perhaps I’m being a tad simplistic. And perhaps Tyler’s brilliance was simply too subtle for me. It is true you will find in this work, themes about family trials, the difficulty of raising children, classism, love, the harmful nature of secrets, and the relentlessness of time. If those things appeal to you, then perhaps you will enjoy this book. I can take it or leave it.

Some opinions you may find useful:

Some time back, I learned this: you don’t just open a book by Anne Tyler, you enter it. You get introduced to the characters, take up residence with them in their Baltimore neighborhoods, watch them muddle through their challenges and triumphs, and inevitably, feel as if you’re saying a fond farewell to family members when you close the last page.“– Jill on Goodreads

If ever a novelist created the “Every Family” Ms. Tyler has done it.“– H.F. Corbin on Amazon

Some other opinions you may be interested in:

“The title of this book is well represented….think about a spool of thread. It just unwinds and unwinds, there is no highs or lows. When reading A Spool of Blue Thread I kept waiting for the climax, but it never came….it just unwound and unwound. Yes, there were a few minor surprises, but not enough to save this book.”– Rose Mary Achey on Goodreads

Characters were flat. No plot. I read through to the end despite several times wanting to put it down for good. I kept waiting for something to happen and was surprised to come to the end and find that nothing indeed had happened. What a disappointment.“– Mary Jarvis on Amazon


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs — A Review

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

RaeleighReads rating: 5 out of 5 coffee cups

“Scattered toys, evidence of children long gone, lay skinned in dust. Creeping mold had turned window-adjacent walls black and furry. Fireplaces were throttled with vines that had descended from the roof and had begun to spread across the floor like alien tentacles.”

A perfect marriage of literature and visual arts, Miss Peregrine’s is a brilliant book, and I’m recommending it to everyone.

First, this book is gorgeous. I know, I know, I shouldn’t be dazzled by the trappings, but seriously just go look at this thing. The paper is heavy and thick. Each chapter begins with a decorative page, and each page itself has a decorative swirl along the bottom, denoting the page number. Interspersed between and integral to the story, are wonderful old photographs that Mr. Riggs found, collected, and incorporated. The book itself is a work of art, and I love that!

Now, if it had only been pretty to look at, I wouldn’t have given it five coffee cups, but Miss Peregrine’s is also a compelling read. If I had had zero distractions, I would have gobbled this thing up in one sitting. Alas, life happens so it took me two days to read. But as my family can attest, I was loathe to put it down.

Now then, Miss Peregrine’s follows the story of Jacob Portman, a wealthy, slightly awkward sixteen-year-old with no real life aspirations. But then, Jacob is catapulted into a world he was not prepared for, and I absolutely adored the way he rose to the challenge. Mr. Riggs’ character development is magnificent; all of the characters, even the peculiar ones, felt so real to me. Also, there is a subtlety to Riggs’ writing so that you aren’t even cognizant of the change that is occurring in the characters until it has already happened. And then you just kind of sit back and say wow.

The book is categorized as young adult, and I absolutely think young people can and do enjoy this immensely. That said, Riggs’ writing has a sophistication to it that I believe many adult readers will appreciate. To sum it up in three words: I am impressed.

I was expecting a lovely fantasy story, a quick YA read. I got all of that, but I also got wonderful craftsmanship and artistry. I loved this; go get it!

Some opinions you may be interested in:

I loved the cover of this book, and it all started out well. Alas, about half-way through the story lost steam.“– BrooklynReader on Amazon

In short, this novel was a disappointment. With it’s cast of children with special talents and it’s just-odd-enough matriarch, you would assume the story would practically write itself, but I found the novel boring and slow.“– Sarah M. Ruggles on Amazon

Some other opinions you may find useful:

“Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is a wonderfully original and inventive book with colorful characters, a mysterious tale woven together with threads of historical relevance, and incorporating unforgettable vintage photographs which bring the story to life.”—Geeks of Doom

“Riggs deftly moves between fantasy and reality, prose and photography to create an enchanting and at times positively terrifying story.”—Associated Press


God Help the Child by Toni Morrison — A Review

god help the childGod Help the Child by Toni Morrison

RaeleighReads rating: 5 out of 5 coffee cups

“A woman could be cobra-thin and starving, but if she had grapefruit boobs and raccoon eyes, she was deliriously happy. Right.”

“He had been shaped by talk in the flesh and text on paper.”

“In time the whole family perked up like Sesame Street puppets, hoping that cheer, if worked at hard enough, could sugar the living and quiet the dead.”

Morrison boldly looks into the traumatic face of reality — the stories we all know exist in our world, but that we tuck away into dark recesses in our mind so that we may be comfortable in our every day lives. Expertly written and unashamedly direct, this is a must read and receives a RaeleighReads rating of five out of five coffee cups.

God Help the Child follows the character Bride, whose story is complimented by the satellite stories of the people who come into contact with her life — Sweetness, Booker, Brooklyn, Sofia, Queen, and Rain. Bride is a young woman who has escaped her sheltered and oppressed life at home with her mother, Sweetness, and has now made it big as the developer of a cosmetics line for a major company. Unwanted by her mother because of her dark skin, Bride turns the tables, so to speak, using her dark skin as a shield and as a brand in the corporate world. A seemingly vapid character, Bride knows that she is beautiful and spends much of her time considering this fact — worrying over it so much so, and being willfully ignorant of the world around her — that parts of her beautiful body begin to disappear as though they were never there in the first place. Her lover, Booker, leaves her without reason. Her best friend, Brooklyn, stabs her in the back, and she ends up going on a spur-of-the-moment adventure to locate Booker, and find — what? She doesn’t really know, and neither do we.

There is an obvious surface story here, but underneath that Morrison takes on the themes of race, beauty, exploitation, rape, incarceration, child molestation, hatred, fear, the confusing nature of love, and the hardships of child rearing. Heavy stuff! But her handling of this subject matter is superbly nuanced while still being clearly present. I suggest reading it all in one go — at 178 pages that is certainly doable. And then, go back and read it again, more leisurely this time.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is following current events in our world — at all. Also, anyone who enjoys reading writers at the top of their linguistic game — this book is for you. Morrison’s prose are succinct and beautiful. No word is wasted; no extra words are needed. Superb. Have I said that yet? Superb.

“…it was only then that he noticed the rain — soft, steady. The sun still blazed so the raindrops falling from a baby-blue sky were like crystal breaking into specks of light on the pavement.”

Some opinions you may be interested in:

“The prose is lean, uncluttered. Morrison’s novelistic architectures have always been exceptionally well-designed; she crafts the vessels, carefully and uniquely to each story, before pouring in the water, and God Help the Child is no exception.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer

“[Morrison’s] powers are proudly on display in God Help the Child. At its best, this new novel demonstrates that the author is, as she suggested recently in a New York Times Magazine profile, fully capable of writing novels forever.”
The Atlantic

“Every page contains at least one passage of breathtaking prose, a lyrical flow accentuated by stark imagery and laden with poetic contrasts.”
Dallas Morning News

Some other opinions you may find useful:

“The first section contains richly achieved voice, which has always been a strong card in Morrison. But the narrative goes haywire in much of the rest of the book.” –David Curry on Amazon

“The ending is disappointing to say the least. It’s not that the ending is bad, it should not have ended right where it was all starting to come together. I mean you talking about a cliff hanger! I am still trying to figure out what is the point of the story.” –Judith Gunn on Amazon

“Compelling and(but?) deeply unpleasant. Needs to be literally wrapped in a trigger warning. As with other Morrison that I have read, she excels when showing rather than telling. The bits of magical realism were interesting but they just felt…odd to me when thrown up against the blunt descriptions of sexual trauma. I read it quickly, there were parts I found really moving, and I almost certainly will not read it again.” –Melinda on Goodreads