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Weekly Reads: Week 20

This week sure went by fast! If I blink anymore, I might just miss the entire summer. Although with Memorial Day quickly approaching, I’m sure we’ll all get the break we’ve been waiting for. 🙂

 And some Vivacious Reads blog news, I have a few things planned for the coming weeks that I’m pretty excited for. I haven’t published too many non-bookish posts, and I hope to change that very soon!

If you’re a fan of the blog, please visit our Facebook page and join us on Twitter. If you’d like to see what else I’ve been reading or compare notes, I’d love to link up on GoodReads.

Happy Reading 🙂

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The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell

 Samantha Whipple is the last remaining descendent of the beloved Bronte sisters. While joining the ranks of many esteemed intellectuals at Oxford University, she reluctantly accepts her inheritance. Better known as the Secret Bronte Estate, in reality she’s left a familiar bookmark, a long lost relic of her childhood. Never could she imagine the great lengths her father would reach in order to ensure the safety of their long-lost heirlooms, sending her on a fantastic literary journey, a treasure hunt for a true literary junky. She’ll uncover long held family secrets as she delves into the Bronte legacy as well as her father’s own notorious past. With each coming clue, will she be able to uncover their hidden meanings before it’s too late?

“To tell a good story, you need courage. Courage to fully become someone else, even if — and especially if — that person was a more vulnerable version of yourself.”

“I realized that my life of late had consisted of far too much dialogue and not enough exposition. I imagined an angry, bespectacled English teacher slashing his pen through the transcript of my life, wondering how someone could possibly say so much and think so little.”

 Sarcastic and quick witted, Samantha Whipple will keep you on your toes, laughing to the very end. The novel is a complete treasure for all Bronte and literary fans alike as Lowell delves into the world of metafiction, beautifully written and perfectly structured, Samantha’s story will have you questioning all your favorite classics and looking for the hidden meanings of every work you read from hereon out. I’m not sure the accuracy of the assumptions made of the relationship between the Bronte sisters, but the arguments made by the characters are striking, and at the very least, get the reader paying closer attention to the fine details of the Bronte works, from the famous spirits of Wuthering Heights to the seemingly innocent paintings of Jane Eyre and Helen from The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. If that’s not appealing, the novel is chalk full of teasing tirades between Samantha and her ruggedly handsome tutor – daringly reminiscent of Mr. Rochester.

**Bonus**

Not sure if intentional or no, but the scene in which Samantha spends staring at the mysterious painting of The Governess in her dorm just screamed The Yellow Wallpaper to me. “She seemed to be screaming out to me, louder and louder.” Perhaps all the literary references in the novel has heightened my senses, but I couldn’t help but note the similarity of the resulting madness.

Rating: 4 Stars

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The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

The mystery begins as Tanya Dubois packs her bags and abandons her home following the suspicious death of her husband, found dead at the bottom of the stairs. Though she claims her innocence to the reader, she sheds her name and cashes in her credit cards in exchange for a new identity, but as readers will find out, this is not her first alias. At the height of her desperation she meets Blue, a curious bartender with a troubled past of her own, and reluctantly swaps names, now becoming Amelia. On the run from the law and on a hit list, Tanya -now Amelia-now Debra has moved town to town for far too long. Running out of options, she’ll have to turn to old friends to prove her innocence and reclaim freedom, testing her courage and ingenuity ’til the last page.

“You can never see anything clearly when you’re running.”

The Passenger, akin to Gone Girl and Girl on the Train, will leave you absolutely breathless – full of action and hopeless situations, Lutz will have you on the edge of your seat, dying to know the secrets behind Tanya’s past. Just when I though I had the mystery solved, she threw another curve my way, and Tanya was on the run again, and always in the nick of time! She’s an amazing character – strong, self assure, independent, but fragile. She’s been through a lot in her short life and carries a pretty big chip on her shoulder, she’s wary of trusting strangers, and yet can’t help but let her guard down  – her entire personality is a contradiction, which is what makes her so relatable. We always tell ourselves what we should do, but even with our best efforts, we can’t help but believe the best in people, that life is going to get better. Blue, on the other hand, is larger than life. Even upon finishing, she remains somewhat of a mystery, but there is no doubt that Blue and Tanya are our new friendship goal. Together, they’re unstoppable, and while one may be calling the shots unbeknownst to the other, their trust in each other is inspiring.

Rating: 4 Stars

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The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

Newlywed Grace Monroe has grown tired of her wifely and social duties, one event to the next, bound by rules and expectations, she wishes for more when unexpectedly, she receives a significant inheritance from a total stranger, and even more to her surprise, a woman, Madame Eva d’Orsey. She embarks on a journey to Paris to discover the woman behind the mystery, finding a charming and independent woman, and most shockingly, a muse to the premier perfumery in the city. From the glittering twenties in New York to Monte Carlo to Paris to London, Grace will uncover a remarkable story of an extraordinary woman, and will even come to understand herself in ways she never expected. For to truly know yourself is to know your past and by her journey’s end, Grace will have to choose between a life of convention or a life of her own choosing.

“To me, chance isn’t random. The universe is bound by unseen threads. We have only to untangle them a little to see the pattern unfold.”

“Perfume should tell a story – the story of who you are, who you might be, perhaps even of who you fear becoming . . .”

Tessaro is a wonderful writer, from the rigor of life in the city to the glimmering luxuries of Monte Carlo her story will have you mesmerized page after page. From the novel’s start, Grace is painted as a simple woman, lusting for a better, more thrilling life than the drab realities of her troubled marriage. For many readers, her character is a familiar one, all the more relatable for her basic desires and a stark contrast to the complexities of her mysterious benefactor. Eva’s story is revealed slowly and then all at once, making her true identity all the more compelling once finally related to the impressionable Grace. Although her final decisions in the novel would seem obvious, I very much appreciated Tessaro’s reluctance to conclude her journey too soon, strengthening her character to the end, and ultimately making the choice her own rather than fate.

Rating: 4 Stars

What have you been reading lately?

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