Review: “The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls” by Anissa Gray

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry GirlsTitle: The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls
Author: Anissa Gray
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: February 19, 2019
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ ½
TW: Eating disorders, body hatred, child abuse, neglect
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

Debut author Anissa Gray presents a startling oftentimes harsh picture of a family in The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls.

The Butler family has had their share of trials – as sisters Althea, Viola, and Lilian can attest – but nothing prepared them for the literal trial that will upend their lives.

Althea, the eldest sister and substitute matriarch, is a force to be reckoned with and her younger sisters have alternately appreciated and chafed at her strong will. They are as stunned as the rest of the small community when she and her husband Proctor are arrested, and in a heartbeat the family goes from one of the most respected in town to utter disgrace. The worst part is, not even her sisters are sure exactly what happened.

As Althea awaits her fate, Lillian and Viola must come together in the house they grew up in to care for their sister’s teenage daughters. What unfolds is a stunning portrait of the heart and core of an American family in a story that is as page-turning as it is important.

If you follow my blog then you’ll know how I feel about family dramas. They either work for me, like in the case of Tara Conklin’s The Last Romantics (which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago) or, well, lull me to sleep. But even with the genre’s track record I still, somehow, picked up another family drama to read hoping that I’ll once again hit the jackpot like I did with The Last Romantics.

It didn’t quite work out the way I wanted to.

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls was a well-written story about the complex entity that is family. It dug deep into the core, dragging secrets, betrayals and shifting alliances into the surface.  Anissa Gray created a deeply flawed, utterly believable set of characters. There’s Althea, the eldest of the Butler siblings. She takes on the matriarch role when her mother dies at a young age, taking care and raising her siblings almost on her own. Then there’s intelligent Viola, the middle child who harbors a deep secret of her own. Last is Lilian, the baby of the family. Nervy, flummoxed, and unsure of herself, Lilian seemed to be the opposite of her formidable older sisters.

I greatly appreciated the way Gray wrote these three characters, these sisters who are so connected to one another. They are her narrators and movers both. These three women – Althea, Viola, and Lilian – were so effectively written, their voices and personalities so distinct that a reader would be able to easily tell who is who. Together, these three women carry the whole story on their shoulders, moving and dictating its flow, pace and direction with their every choice and decision.

This is one powerful story about family and all its complexities, and I appreciate that. I love that Anissa Gray tackled the topic of incarceration, giving us readers a glimpse into what the families of felons go through with the use of the Butler family. It’s something that you don’t see so much of.

That said, even with how amazingly well-crafted this story was, I still couldn’t connect with the characters. They felt far away. Reading this story was like watching from a distance as things happen to strangers. There isn’t much emotion involved.

Another part that could have used more work were Althea’s daughters Kim and Baby Vi. I felt like they were underutilized and only partly explored, a missed opportunity for the author. I honestly think these two characters could have added so much more to the story, maybe provide a contrasting image to their mother and aunts. Gray’s portrayal of bulimia though was particularly jarring and so realistic.

Overall, The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls was an excellent literary work. Anissa Gray is a promising new author. Her writing was beautiful and she created complex and very human characters. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more from her. However, I’ll be an outlier and say that while I enjoyed this book it didn’t quite stir my emotions. It could simply be a matter of personal preference, but this is my honest opinion of the book. I would still definitely recommend this to other readers, especially those who appreciate reading about complex family relationships.

Author Q&A (2)

Anissa GrayANISSA GRAY was born and raised in western Michigan. She graduated from Western Michigan University and received her Masters in English from New York University. After graduate school, Anissa went on to work as a print reporter at Reuters in Manhattan, covering global financial news. That was followed by a move to Atlanta and the initiation of her career in broadcast journalism at CNN, where she has held roles as writer, editor, and producer, receiving Emmy and DuPont awards for contributions to the network’ coverage of major stories.

After more than 20 years as a journalist, Anissa, a lifelong book lover and voracious reader, pursued fiction writing, applying her love of storytelling from the realm of real-life, newsworthy happenings to the events and encounters that shape our lives.

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Review: “The Au Pair” by Emma Rous

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Title: The Au Pair
Author: Emma Rous
Publisher: Berkley/Penguin Publishing Group
Publication Date: January 8, 2019
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks

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ARC provided by publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest opinion.

 

Long-buried family secrets and one woman who knows it all, Emma Rous’ thriller of a debut makes one question Who am I if I’m not who I thought I was?

Seraphine Mayes and her twin brother Danny were born in the middle of summer at their family’s estate on the Norfolk coast. Within hours of their birth, their mother threw herself from the cliffs, the au pair fled, and the village thrilled with whispers of dark cloaks, changelings, and the aloof couple who drew a young nanny into their inner circle.

Now an adult, Seraphine mourns the recent death of her father. While going through his belongings, she uncovers a family photograph that raises dangerous questions. It was taken on the day the twins were born, and in the photo, their mother, surrounded by her husband and her young son, is beautifully dressed, smiling serenely, and holding just one baby.

Who is the child and what really happened that day?

One person knows the truth, if only Seraphine can find her.

Deliciously intriguing, atmospheric and oh so twisty!

That’s how I would describe The Au Pair should I be asked for a quick review of the book. With mentions of sprites, changelings and witches – not to mention being set in a large Norfolk estate – this story definitely exudes a certain gothic vibe. But behind pretty descriptions of coastal England is a legitimate domestic mystery both tautly and ingeniously plotted as it is entertaining.

I cannot tell you enough just how much I enjoyed this book. I gobbled it up, flying through pages and almost finishing it in one sitting. There’s a lot to love in this book. Quaint, charming setting? Check. Family drama? Chock-full. Plot twists? Bucket-loads! And good luck trying to untangle them! The Au Pair delivers all these and more.

These elements, while definitely factoring into the equation, aren’t what makes The Au Pair a veritable page-turner. It was, for me, the way Emma Rous told the story which really elevates this book.

Rous maximizes both of her narrators – Seraphine and Laura – and uses them to their fullest potential. Both protagonists move and dictates the pace of this book. The dual timeline, with Seraphine’s present day quest to uncover her family’s long-buried secrets and Laura’s time as Edwin’s au pair the summer Seraphine and her twin Danny were born 25 years ago, reveals just enough with perfectly placed hints that’ll surely tease readers to puzzle together the whole story.

The Au Pair, with the exception of that last plot twist that made me stop for a good hour because it came out of nowhere with little foreshadowing, is definitely an engrossing, compelling read. I’m happy to have this be the first book I finished this year. Fans of domestic thrillers and mystery will certainly find something to enjoy in this one. I recommend it!

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About the Author:

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EMMA ROUS grew up in England, Indonesia, Kuwait, Portugal and Fiji, and from a young age she had two ambitions: to write stories, and to look after animals. She studied veterinary medicine and zoology at the University of Cambridge, and worked as a veterinary surgeon for eighteen years before starting to write fiction. Emma lives in Cambridgeshire, England, with her husband and three sons.

The Au Pair is her first novel.

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First Line Fridays: “The Au Pair” by Emma Rous

First Line Fridays (feature photo)
First Line Fridays is a weekly feature hosted by Hording Books.


Hey! Would you look at that. It’s already the first Friday of 2019, which means the first of First Line Fridays!

Today I’m going to be sharing the first line of my first read for this year.

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We have no photographs of our early days, Danny and I. A ix-month gap yawns in the Mayes family album after we were born. No first-day-at-school pictures for Edwin, no means of telling which of us two looked more like him at the beginning. An empty double page marks the overwhelming grief that followed our arrival.”

 

 

 

The Au Pair is a very interesting domestic mystery. I’m not yet sure if it’s a thriller because I’m only about 40% in, but it sure does puzzle a whole lot. I’ve practically written question after question, suspicion after suspicion after every chapter. I can’t wait to finally find out what’s what.

The Au Pair is Emma Rous’ debut novel. It comes out on January 8 published by Berkley Books.

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Rachel

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