Monday, January 19, 2015

The Secret Place by Tana French

This is the latest in Tana French's murder squad books and in it, not only do we see a familiar face but we also see murder brought to a private, Catholic girl's school. Stephen Moran, who we met in Faithful Place, is revealed to be extremely ambitious. He's a part of the Cold Case Squad who wants to be a part of the Murder Squad. He sees his opportunity when Holly Mackey, the teenage daughter of another detective and a student at St. Kilda's, arrives and asks to speak with him. She brought a message with her that she spotted on a board in the school where girls may reveal their most private thoughts and feelings anonymously. A picture of the murder victim, a boy named Chris, has been placed on the board along with the words "I know who killed him" in the style of a ransom note.

Moran then finds out who the detectives on the case were - one is retired and the other is Antoinette Conway - a tough detective who is still on the force. Moran is permitted to accompany Conway to St. Kilda's to help with the follow up investigation prompted by the postcard. The novel takes place over the course of one day and the chapters alternate between the present day and the past. The novel is told from the point of view of Moran and Holly and her friends. I loved how she drew the girls and the competing cliques: Holly's vs. Joanne's. Joanne's group is more of the Queen Bee type of group. She also was fantastic in showing the gender divides. They are especially apparent between the two detectives; however the boys and the girls interactions were also very enlightening. The claustrophobic world within a world of the boarding school, like nesting dolls, is rendered well in this novel. Loved it. It's not a speed read but well worth it.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Soldier Girls by Helen Thorpe

There is a lot about female American soldiers in today's news. Commanding officers and administrators are being called onto the carpet for sexual assaults that are occuring. Female soldiers have been kidnapped and then released and also participate in atrocities (think Abu Ghraib). Women's roles in the military are also subjected to much debate - will they be allowed into combat? But in the midst of all this discussion, the actual individual women and their motivations are forgotten - they are nameless, faceless and storyless. Who are they? Why are they there? In this book, Helen Thorpe seeks to answer that question by following the stories of three very different women as they serve in the national guard.

All three women enlisted in the National Guard before September 11, 2001 and all seemed to hope that the enlistment would help them to improve their stations in life. Michelle Fischer, the youngest, was from a dysfunctional family and wanted to use the national guard to go to school. Desma Brooks had children, was impulsive and joined on a dare. Debbie helton was the oldest and became a grandmother while she had been deployed. The women drilled on weekends, were grateful for the extra paycheck and went on with their civilian lives. When 9/11 happened, a lot of men and women were deployed including the three women that Thorpe followed. This book detailed the deployments and the relationships that the women experienced. It covered everything from deployments and their returns to the experiences that the women had while deployed, including the relationships they experienced with fellow soldiers and commanding officers (even though that's a huge no no).

What I loved about this book was how accessible it made the experiences and the questions that it raised about the ever changing role of the military, the roles of women in society and the military in particular and the struggles that our society has with it. It became readily apparent that women and men experience military life and deployment differently and raised tremendous questions about how we and the military must deal with those. Love it and highly recommend this book.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

If you liked The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, you will want to read this dystopian novel, which has won a number of awards in th...