Tag Archives: sex

A Single Shot by Matthew F. Jones

19th September 2011

*I received an ebook of A Single Shot from Mulholland Books through NetGalley. A Single Shot is on sale today. Buy it from Indiebound.

John Moon is a dude with bad luck. His dad lost the farm before his time. His wife left with his kid. And while he’s out poaching on someone else’s land tracking a wounded deer, he shoots something rustling in the bushes: a girl, a young one. And it seems she wasn’t alone. John finds tens of thousands of dollars in cash wadded next to a sleeping bag, a teddy bear, and a photograph. As John frantically tries to undo the damage of that one shot, he realizes the girl’s companion won’t stop until he hunts down John..and the money.

A Single Shot has such a simple premise: down-on-his-luck guy makes a bad mistake, finds money, goes on the run… Except John Moon doesn’t run. He stays right where he is, in his trailer in the mountains. Why? Because it’s his land, and a man doesn’t leave his land, even if it technically isn’t his anymore. And as the town becomes more and more claustrophobic and the evidence of his mistake mounts, John is in terrible danger.

This book scared the crap out of me. I mean, you guys know I’m a scaredy cat already, but this book was petrifying because I live near backwoods towns like this one, and every brutality, every threat of violence is so real.

With books like Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (which scared me like crazy), you know there are sickos out there like that, but it seems a little…outlandish. A Single Shot? There’s probably dudes like this all over the place. They’ve probably sat in my classroom. Backwoods guys – they know how to work a hunting knife. Need I say more? This book had my palms sweating and raised my heartbeat, too. It just doesn’t stop. It’s graphic and dirty, and I felt like I needed a shower for much of it, but I also couldn’t help but root for John.

In his own way, he tries to make good out of the bad. At times, Jones seemed to be making him out as a smart guy (or smarter than he’s given credit for), and he’s not that. I mean, he doesn’t go to the cops about the girl. He doesn’t leave the money. He doesn’t warn his ex-wife to take the baby and run. I think, more than anything, though, it’s because of his guilt. It stymies him, and he absolutely has no idea how to get out of it. So you sit, and you watch it play out, and when it ends, it’s not redemptive. But Jones doesn’t insult your intelligence as a reader. The book ends the way it should because the bad guys are bad guys. The good guys, well, they aren’t so good. And no one has an out.

Read this: if you like Cormac McCarthy. Or stories of guilt. Or thrillers.

The Picky Girl Reviews The Bolter by Frances Osborne

25th February 2011

A good friend of mine, Ashlynn, has great taste in a lot of things, but we haven’t often given one another book recommendations. So I knew when she let me know a couple of weeks ago that she would be passing a book my way, it would be awesome. There are no words…. almost.

The Bolter: The story of the wild, beautiful, fearless Idina Sackville, descendant of one of England’s oldest families, who went off to Kenya in search of adventure and became known as the high priestess of the scandalous “Happy Valley Set.”

Totally sounds made up, right? Except it’s not. I have been on a nonfiction kick lately anyway, and one thing I have learned is truth really can be stranger than fiction. A lot stranger.

Idina Sackville is born to a woman who crosses lines and challenges the societal norms of her time. She divorces her husband, organizes activists, and generally raises hell. Idina is no different, though at first she appears to adhere to the expectations of a young, wealthy woman. She finds a handsome, independently-wealthy man and marries him. However, the world is on the brink of World War I, and love is expendable. Happiness becomes a momentary, fleeting emotion, and men on the front are willing and eager to seek that high wherever they may find it. Idina, a sensible young woman, goes about finding happiness on her own, and in the process, she loses her children and what is, to the author Frances Osborne believes, the love of her life.

Frances, the great-granddaughter or granddaughter (forgive me, I’m not good with lineage) is the teller of this fantastical tale. She may take some liberties; however, she uses primary sources often, even interviewing former friends of Idina who asked not to be named, and that which is not cited still feels very close to the truth.

Idina is enigmatic. Not classically beautiful, she exudes sex and the forbidden, attracting men half her age and then some into her intriguing lair. Clothes are designed for her. Newspapers follow her, yet Idina pays little attention. She runs headlong into relationship after relationship, seeking the one thing she has never been able to find again after Euan, her first husband – love, based on mutual respect, attraction, and emotion.

What she finds instead, is man after man who must be entertained in order not to stray. Amuse them, she does, throwing lurid parties, spoken about in hushed tones by neighbors or those unlucky enough not to be invited. Unfortunately for Idina, there are moments when she is unable to be the entertainer, such as when she becomes pregnant with her third husband’s child:

For all her nonchalance – photographs show her lolling on the lawn, a book balanced on her bump – the pregnant Idina’s life was full of, as the Kenyans called them, shauries (worried). However active she remained, when the baby arrived, shortly after Christmas, she would be forced to lie low for several weeks, leaving Joss unattended to. And Joss it had become clear, needed constant female attention. As long as he returned from his liasons, that was fine. But he might not.

Idina’s frank realizations of her husbands’ limitations and her willingness to “loan them out” in order to retain them was, to me, so sad. Her life, though fascinating, was tireless and unsettled. She loses husband after husband, meets her adult sons and loses them to the war in quick succession, and mourns the love she never truly got over, Euan. She wore a ring he gave her until the end of her life and always kept a photo of him in her bedroom, regardless of with whom she shared her bed.

The Bolter is a tantalizing account of not just a woman but also of a time period bookended by war, an era marked by loss and desperation. Osborne creates a world where that desperation is played out in drawing rooms and boudoirs, where each person is aware of the stakes but not necessarily prepared for the fallout.

Because every generation attempts to blame the fall of society on the next, I was honestly shocked by the goings on in Edwardian England, and if you are looking for nonfiction or just a really interesting read, I highly recommend you pick up The Bolter.

jenn aka picky girl aka a total square (at least compared to Lady Idina Sackville)

**Don’t forget today is Friday, and that means you are invited to participate in Friday Reads, which I talked about last week. You can join in the fun on Facebook, Twitter, or on the blog. Find out what others are reading and win some really cool prizes.

Review: Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas

2nd October 2010

*Trigger warning: this post contains a story line which deals with domestic and sexual abuse.*

On the tail end of yesterday’s post, I had to write this morning about Blue-Eyed Devil. As promised, I went to the library last night and on my friend Sommer’s suggestion picked up the two sequels to Sugar Daddy, a book she passed on to me several years ago. Now, let me just say – my intentions last night were to eat dinner in my pjs, crawl into bed, and sleep blissfully until morning. Lisa Kleypas had other plans, and no, I’m not being dirty.

I stayed up until almost 3 a.m. reading this book. A romance novel? Sure, I guess. But it wasn’t just a romance novel: I CRIED.

There, I said it. The last book that made me well up was The Book Thief, ok. I’m a quality crier. No sappy ending brings tears to my eyes. In fact, sometimes I laugh at that sort of thing, but lying in bed, reading Blue-Eyed Devil, I couldn’t control my tears.

Haven Travis (I know, such a soap opera name) comes from Texas oil money and is from ritzy River Oaks Houston. She comes from a pretty strict background, although her best friend Todd, the son of two artists, is extremely liberal. He’s Buddhist and explains to Haven that Buddhists “spend a lot of time contemplating the nature of reality.” As a child when she asks to attend a Buddhist temple with Todd, her mother tells her she is a Baptist, and “Baptists didn’t spend their time thinking about reality.”

As an adult, though, Haven has got a conscience, which sometimes blinds her to people’s true natures. She is constantly trying to make up for having quite a lot of what most people have so little. The book opens at her brother’s wedding (culmination of Sugar Daddy), her boyfriend Nick by her side. But Daddy Travis, Haven’s impossible-to-impress father can’t stand Nick. In fact, no one seems impressed with him. However, Haven knows Nick came from nothing and loves his character and liberal nature. During the wedding, Haven sees who she thinks is Nick slip into the wine cellar and follows him in. Only it’s not Nick; it’s Hardy Cates, a business competitor of the Travis family. Cates, ahem, weakens Haven’s knees, but she leaves in search of Nick, who has spoken with her father, asking for Haven’s hand in marriage.

After she marries Nick and is cut off from Daddy’s money, she realizes Nick harbors great resentment toward her background. He blames Haven for her family’s money, even though it’s not something Haven thinks about. He wants to have children to manipulate money from Daddy Travis. The marriage becomes increasingly unstable as Nick’s personality deteriorates before Haven’s eyes. Haven must iron his shirts – just so – or she’s a bad wife. If she doesn’t have dinner made when they both get off work, she’s a bad wife. You see where this is going, and it’s not a comfortable place.

Nick becomes progressively more dangerous, and I think my tears started here, in the midst of the first slap:

Screaming. I’d never had someone scream into my face like that before, certainly not a man, and it was a kind of death.

Growing up, I remember my dad as a fairly laidback dad. He worked a lot as a grocery store manager, but it’s not his absences I remember. What has always, always stuck with me are the times when we would be watching television or a movie when my dad would abruptly get up and change the channel or turn the television off. I didn’t understand what was going on, having not even noticed what had happened on screen – a man hitting a woman, and I’m not sure if he ever explained; it may have been my mom who told me, “Your dad doesn’t ever want you or your sister to think that sort of violence is ok.”

Small – but it left an indelible impression on me. I won’t quote the violent scenes or the incident that pushes Haven to leave, but she does leave – after Nick throws her, bodily, onto the front stoop. Her older brother Gage sends someone to collect her in Dallas, and after a trip to the Medical Center, begins to heal. She’s skittish and sad, but slowly the old Haven comes around, except in social situations. One night after having drinks with her brother at a downtown bar, an incoming crowd shoves her, terrifying her with the body contact, into who else but the blue-eyed devil Hardy Cates, and Haven must come to terms with what has happened to her and learn to trust again.

It sounds so cliche, but honestly, if you could see my bleary eyes and mussed hair, having slept in until 9:20 a.m. (so so late for me), you would understand. It’s much less a romance novel than a story of hurt and healing. The only aspect of this novel that bothered me (other than the obvious) was the thought that most domestic violence victims don’t have a family with access to private jets and loads of money and influence to keep an abusive partner away. Of course, it’s fiction, but the book made it seem as though leaving the abuser is simple, when in actuality it’s not. I will say there are moments in the book that subtly address that, but it was just an observation.

I also hope you will not not pick up this book because of the abuse although I would certainly understand. I really enjoyed it and was interested in the narcissistic-personality disorder the book discusses.

And, as to my bout of crying, let’s just not mention that. Has a book ever caught you off guard like that? Especially a book you never thought would have that sort of effect on you? Please say yes.