11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
I loved Emily Arsenault's first book, The Broken Teaglass, so I was excited to get this book from Amazon Vine. It turned out to be structurally similar to her first book, but ultimately not as much fun (for me, at least).
Both books purport to be mysteries, but they focus more on how the pursuit of the questions changes the protagonists than the actual answers. In both cases, the "solution" to the mystery is somewhat anticlimactic.
Both books dole out the backstory in random snippets - in this case, through flashbacks to the year Nora was eleven, when her friend Charlotte's babysitter disappeared.
Rose Notes doesn't have the unique setting of Broken Teaglass, nor the charming device of the cits. What it does have is a brilliant grasp of what it's like to go home again (particularly if you were glad to go) and run into people who never left. Another layer, told as Nora's reminiscences, is of the girls' 16th year, when their childhood friendship had fallen by the wayside as they try to cope in their different ways with Rose's disappearance. Arsenault gets the angst of that age painfully right.
Overall a good, if somber, read that would appeal as a coming of age story rather than a mystery.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Two young girls, Nora and Charlotte were best friends when their babysitter whom they had a close relationship with, Rose disappears when they are eleven. Nora was the last person known to see Rose before she disappears. Using Time Life books, Charlotte attempts with a sometimes unwilling Nora, to find clues in Rose's disappearance using psychic means listed in the books. Charlotte is convinced that Nora may know much more about the disappearance than she remembers. While growing up, teenage angst and Nora's sudden withdrawal into herself after Rose's disappearance cause the girl's friendship to drift apart. When Rose's body is discovered 15 years later, Nora and Charlotte meet up again to go over the case. Nora is a reluctant participant, as doing this involves facing the troubles & insecurities she went through as a teenager.
Most of this story is revealed through Nora's interactions with the other characters, her internal dialogue and her memories of the past. At no point is Nora's full history revealed, the reader is introduced to it one piece at a time. The story goes from present time, when Rose disappears and the time after Rose disappears. The author goes from time period to time period effortlessly.
As the main character, Nora is hard to understand at times. She seems to have a real internal struggle with her emotions and her actions. She often seems to want to do something or say something, but holds herself back. Being back in her childhood hometown of Waverly, her teenage insecurities and self-doubts all come back. Her internal dialogue is very real and believable.
Charlotte's character is the smart, too soon mature, spoiled, bossy friend that most of us have had in school. As an adult, Charlotte has gotten fired from her job at the local newspaper. Now she's a high school teacher, but she doesn't seem to enjoy her job very much and she chain smokes and drinks heavily. She still has her excellent instincts and she still suspects that Nora is the only one who can connect-the-dots to what happened to Rose.
The book has a shocking and sad conclusion. Just when I thought I had it figured out what happened to Rose the exact opposite was revealed. The writing works well and the reader is drawn along Nora's journey. This isn't a typical mystery that's all about what happened to Rose. It's a coming of age story about what happens to the people that are left when something tragic happens to someone they know and care about and how it affects their lives for better or worse. I really enjoyed this book and would definitely read another book by Rose Arsenault.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Underneath the title of this book is written that little girls love secrets. After finishing this book, it couldn't be further from the truth. In "Search of the Rose notes" is at heart a psychological mystery, with the emphasis on the psychological. It is also a coming of age story that defines the many types of relationships that shape us, but in the end don't have to define us.
This story is told through the eyes of Nora, now a 28 year old married career women, who unexpectedly receives a call from her childhood friend Charlotte. The body of Charlotte's 16 year old babysitter, who has been missing since November 1990, has finally been found. Her disappearance has been pivotal in both of the girls lives, eventually causing a dissension in their close relationship. As 11 year old children, they try and find or at least explain her disappearance, by using theories from Time/Life books discarded by Charlotte's older brother (visions, transformations, magic, psychic events etc). It is now May 2006, and even though these two women have grown apart and infrequently have contact, they realize that this may be their last chance for closure. For Nora this means returning to her childhood home and confronting the memories of her less than idyllic childhood.
This story carefully unfolds, alternating between May 2006 (the present), 1990(girls were 11), and 1996 (when the girls were 16)
The characterizations are very believable, the dialogue realistic to the angst of the teenage girl, the secondary male characters multifaceted. Whether it be Nora who both wants and fears acceptance, Charlotte who asks questions but does not always listen for the answers, or Rose their older guide, who carries a secret of her own, they were authentic and will remain in my memory.
If you are expecting a clever who-dun-it or a paranormal book, as per the synopsis on the cover, you will be disappointed. If you are looking to read a good psychodrama you should give this book a try. My one criticism was the lack of fear on the parents part after Rose goes missing. This was a small town and I was surprised that both girls were allowed to still walk alone after dark.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I was blown away by this book. I loved it. It was totally not what I was expecting. Emily Arsenault gives us IN SEARCH OF THE ROSE NOTES, Little Girls Love Secrets. It is a great story, well told from several angles, with powerful dialogue and believable characters. It isn't a mystery in the classic sense more a review of events, memories and emotions. Told through Nora's eyes and perspectives, with the help of girlfriend Charlotte and others from her past. Rose, their baby sitter disappears and years later the body is discovered. Read this fine story and discover the truth. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on November 27, 2011
Okay, like a lot of the other readers here, I wanted to like this one. I just didn't.
Maybe the synopsis on the cover is to blame: it makes the book sound suspenseful, nostalgic, and light. It's really none of those things. Well, nostalgic, maybe: if your idea of nostalgia is a bitter nursing of hurt feelings.
Nora, the distinctly unlikeable narrator, spends more time remembering (fetishising?) childhood slights than focusing on solving the murder mystery at hand. Nora is married, but her husband isn't really a character in the novel. I think she's only married so that we don't think she's a loser, which seems... odd. And problematic, since Nora's almost-not-quite romance with a childhood friend is the most engaging part of the novel.
Charlotte, Nora's former best frenemy, is superior and exasperating as child in the flashbacks and seems like a COMPLETELY different person in the present. The flashbacks themselves are repetitive and do little to advance the plot.
I kept wondering about Emily Arsenault herself - What axe is she grinding? Emily, who hurt you?
And then there's the ending. I'm not into spoilers, so I'll just say that it's extremely anti-climactic....
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2011
This is a very well-written book with an interesting premise, but it ultimately goes nowhere. I kept waiting and waiting for something exciting to happen. It is definitely not a mystery, as there is no suspense or intrigue. I trudged through it because I wanted to find out what happpened to Rose, but when I was done, I wished I had just read the last several pages and saved myself time and aggravation. The ending was anti-climatic to say the least, with one person's (no spoiler here!) role in Rose's disappearance totally preposterous!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I was once a schoolgirl enthralled by the Time-Life paranormal books, all black and silver and full of mysteries. I understand what Nora Reed says when she mentions stopping cold every time she saw the commercials, fascinated by the hints of stories they told. I understand, too, how Nora could find the actual books less enthralling than what they let her imagine. Her friend Charlotte believes, though. It's Charlotte's idea to experiment with runes and psychic tests even before their babysitter Rose disappears. When Rose is gone, Charlotte wants to use the books to find her; Nora is willing to try. For awhile.
This story isn't a search for the Rose notes. The notes never left Charlotte's house. Nor is it a search for Rose, since Rose's body has just turned up, sixteen years after the girls abandoned their quest. What they want to know now is what happened back then: who took Rose? Who killed her? Why did their friendship fall apart? What darkness crept into Nora's life that year that makes her dread a return to her home town?
Given the flashbacks and their modern day interactions, Charlotte and Nora's estrangement isn't much of a wonder at all. Part of the heart of the book, to me, was its depiction of friendship that isn't really friendship, two people who spend time together because they don't have anyone else. It's awkward and a little bleak, not so much heartwarming. I've never seen it captured so well or with as much subtlety as here. Nora's search for herself--for a release from the past--is the rest of the heart, and it's Nora Reed that all her old friends are really trying to find. 'What happened to Rose' is an afterthought, so while that answer crept up on me and evaded all my guesses, it's unfortunate the answers to Nora's puzzle are kind of disappointing. Maybe it says something about me that such a sadly realistic explanation left me wishing for aliens, paranormal events, or anything less drear. Still, could there have been another solution? I suspect this would be a cheaper reading experience with a different ending.
There's probably a special appeal here if you grew up a girl in the 1990s--the suspense, the people of Waverly, and the chill that comes with a good cold case mystery are almost just icing on the nostalgia cake to me, but there's enough of merit here to make it worth reading for anyone.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 6, 2011
Remember those Time Life books about alien abductions, werewolves, astral projection and all things occult? Remember how it was hinted that they held the answers to all the questions of the more inquisitive minds?
I don't know about you, but I still have a special place in my heart for those types of books...hell, even space on my bookshelf. Usually you were reading these books around adolescence, when you realized there was so much more to life than what was known, than our own insignificant worries about boys noticing us, or wearing the right kind of clothes, or getting good grades, or maintaining our "reputation."
Nora and Charlotte are two of these 11 year old girls, taking on the mysteries of the universe. When their teen-aged babysitter goes missing, they use the techniques of their prized Time Life books in order to find out what's happened to her. Only, despite all their research--the runes, the EVP recordings, and the dream analysis--they get nowhere.
Now in her late twenties, Nora revisits her old hometown and her old friend, Charlotte. New information has emerged and left the entire community shaken; all the old questions and suspicions are rehashed, and no one is safe from scrutiny. Rose's bones have been found in the woods and all signs point to her body being relocated recently. Charlotte and Norah join together after a long estrangement to find out who is responsible for Rose's death. As they discuss that fateful fall, Nora remembers a lot more than she bargained for, and suspects that Charlotte knows more than she is letting on. But is Norah ready to learn the truth about Rose's death, the truth about the community she left behind, the truth about the girl she was and tried so hard to forget?
Did they ever really know Rose? As they pore over her old notes and dream entries (pieces they badgered her into writing for their Time-Life projects), they begin to realize that their perceptions of Rose have changed with experience and hard-earned wisdom.
This isn't just a book about a missing girl and a sleepy town: it's about the people we try to escape, the fugitives we become from our pasts, and how reinventing ourselves can lead to emotional stagnation and arrested development. It's about the connections we run away from, the people who knows us more than we know ourselves, and the truths we just aren't ready to see.
It's about coming home again, when you've been away for so long.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2011
In 1990, eleven-year-old Nora and Charlotte were best friends in Waverly, Connecticut, spending hours at Charlotte's home playing games and perusing the history of paranormal and dream analysis theories in Charlotte's brother's discarded Time-Life books to pass time until Nora's departure to coincide with her working mother's return. When babysitter Rose, an abundantly superior high school teenager whose savoir faire and infamously loose language enters their lives, she captivates and also exacerbates the subtle competitive discord between Nora and Charlotte.
Within these small town routines and boundaries, the unimaginable happens; walking home with Nora and after saying good-bye, Rose mysteriously vanishes. Nora, especially distraught as the last person to see Rose alive, joins Charlotte in exploring paranormal methodology to determine her fate. Unsuccessful and frustrated in their somewhat unorthodox attempts, years pass without any leads or answers as Nora and Charlotte drift apart. In 2006, Rose's remains are discovered not far from Nora's childhood home. Nora returns to Waverly in search of unanswered questions, ambivalently succumbing to Charlotte's overbearing claims that they alone have sufficient evidence and the requisite skills to solve Rose's disappearance and manner of death.
Emily Arsenault's narrative deftly transitions from the present to the past, authentically capturing Nora's adolescent angst and adult resistance to resurrect old wounds, Charlotte's alarming descent into small town anonymity, an adult living in her parents' home, and weaving a psychologically complex and engrossing web of unraveling secrets which lead to a shocking unforeseen conclusion.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
In an interesting plot line Emily Arsenault (The Broken Teaglass) invites readers to know Nora and Charlotte, her female protagonists as 11-year-olds and as adults. The author segues easily between time frames, 1990 and 2006, to give us an absorbing psychological mystery.
It is the voice of Nora that we hear. As 11-year-olds Charlotte and Nora live in Waverly, Connecticut. They were the best of friends who spent untold hours with their 16-year-old baby sitter, Rose. The girls spent most of their time examining a trove of old books dealing with the paranormal, boring the beautiful Rose, "with the dirty-blond hair and even dirtier mouth - practically to death."
But then after walking Nora home one November day Rose abruptly disappeared. About a week later at the behest of Charlotte the girls tried to discover what happened to Rose through divination, which only ended in frustration and anger.
Some 16 years later Rose's remains are found, evidently she had been murdered. Nora receives a call from Charlotte asking her to return to Waverly, insisting that she do so. The case of Rose's disappearance has been reopened. When Nora returns she reconnects with old friends, many of whom have questions or have kept secrets about Rose.
Carefully crafted, psychologically complex and well written In Search of the Rose Notes will keep readers turning pages until a surprising denouement.
- Gail Cooke