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The Plot

Putney is an examination of control, grooming, psychology, and rape. The novel is told from three perspectives: the abuser, the victim, and the witness. Ralph, the abuser, is a famous classical musician who meets the daughter of a friend at their home one day. Daphne, the friend’s daughter, is immediately the center of Ralph’s affections. He grooms her from youth to believe he is in love with her, despite having a family and children of his own.

As Daphne’s best friend watches from the outskirts, she sees the destruction and inappropriate relationship that Ralph wreaks on Daphne. Told from the past when Daphne was a child, to Daphne as an adult, the novel explores uncomfortable topics that get the reader thinking.

The Influences

The influence from Nabokov’s Lolita is apparent, but the masterfulness that Nabokov possesses, Zinovieff does not. In recent years, many Lolita-like novels have made their debut, the most notable ones read by yours truly. Zinovieff’s Putney is my least favorite of all the ones I have read. It rehashes the same concepts and ideas without adding anything new to the conversation. Two of my favorites from recent years that DO present a new dynamic on the nearly tired predator/nymphet storyline are Bryn Greenwood’s “All the Ugly and Wonderful Things” as well as Kate Elizabeth Russell’s “My Dark Vanessa.” Greenwood’s story brings an economic element to the plot and Russell’s centers around a professor and a 15-year-old student, taking aim at the academic world. Zinovieff’s novel does not bring a new element to the classic Lolita story, or take aim at other commentaries as the other two novels do.

The Verdict

I was pretty disappointed in feeling this way about Putney because I’d heard such positive buzz around it from large news sources. I just feel Greenwood and Russell brought more to the table. As an author, when you take on a classic narrative, you must reinvent it. That did not happen here. There was an attempt to attach this novel more to the survivor’s narrative and the #MeToo movement, but it fell flat for me. The prose and novel as a whole was a solid 3 out of 5. However, there are greater offerings in the literature world for Lolita inspired commentaries.

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Sarah Moon is a stone-cold sorceress from Tennessee whose interests include serial killers, horror fiction, and the newest dystopian blockbuster. Sarah holds an M.A. in English Literature and an M.F.A. in Fiction Writing. She works as an English professor as well as a cemeterian. Sarah is most likely to cover horror in print including prose, poetry, and graphic forms. You can find her on Instagram @wellreadredhead18.

Book Reviews

What Have We Done: Alex Finlay Produces Another Hit

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  • Jenna: A stay at home mom with a secret assassin past
  • Donnie: An alcoholic rock star
  • Nico: An executive producer of a reality television show

They all have a past, but who is out to get them?

The Plot

Jenna, Donnie, and Nico share a troubled past. They were all orphans who lived at Savior House — which is much less savior, much more terror. When their friend Benny, a famous judge, is murdered and the FBI comes looking, Jenna, Donnie, and Nico must race against the clock to figure out who is targeting them.

The Verdict

From the author of The Night Shift, which I reviewed here, I would expect nothing less than what Finlay has delivered. Finlay notoriously creates stories with palpable thrill and spine-tingling revelations.

I particularly enjoyed the character of Jenna. She is a reformed assassin living a normal life as a new stepmom. When she is called in to make a hit and her family is threatened, she goes badass mom on ’em. While I still thought Donnie and Nico as characters were engaging, it was nothing for what I felt for Jenna.

Also, major props to Finlay for creating a character that kills with a very unique weapon. Read it to find out more!

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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Book Reviews

“The Writing Retreat” Gone Bad: Julia Bartz’s Debut

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Keeping it all in the family, Julia Bartz’s The Writing Retreat is the debut novel of the sister of Andrea Bartz, author of We Were Never Here, which I reviewed here.

I was much more impressed with The Writing Retreat than I was We Were Never Here.

The Plot

Five up and coming female writers under 30 are invited to a writing retreat hosted by the reclusive and acclaimed horror writer Rosa Vallo. Rosa reveals the details of the retreat: each writer must complete a full length novel from scratch over the next month. The best novel wins a multi-million dollar publishing deal with Rosa.

Suddenly, the retreat turns into a nightmare when one writer goes missing in the snowy terrain outside.

The novel hinges on friendships in turmoil and has a focus on LGBT+ representation as well as interpersonal female relationships. The novel explores the dark publishing world and the search for fame and the Great American Novel.

The Verdict

This novel is atmospheric and intellectual, page turning, and the English major’s required reading. I absorbed this novel and found Julia Bartz’s writing and conceptual chops to be leagues above her sister’s.

Ths novel releases on February 21, 2023 and it should be in your cart right now.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Buy it here!

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Book Reviews

A Murder in Reverse: “Wrong Place Wrong Time”

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The Plot

“A brilliantly genre-bending, mind-twisting answer to the question How far would you go to save your child?”  — Ruth Ware, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Jen watches her son murder a stranger. Stab him to death. She and her husband, Kelly, watch as their son Todd is taken into custody.

The next morning, Jen wakes up and it’s yesterday. Jen knows that at the end of the night, her son kills someone. She is determined to stop it.

Jen goes further and further back in time trying to discover why Todd murdered a stranger and how to stop it.

The Verdict

This book is twisty. Right when you think you know the ending, something else is there to prove that the story is more multifaceted than that. While the premise of the novel is simple, Gillian McAllister elevates a simple concept with deep, dark twists.

It is best that you don’t know too much going into this one. For fans of Blake Crouch, this is such a good thriller with time travelling vibes.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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